Nurse at CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée forced to work with symptoms, then tests positive, union says

The union representing workers at the CHSLD with the second most COVID-19 cases in the province says a nurse was forced to go to work with symptoms, then later found out she had tested positive for the disease. 

According to the list the Quebec government released earlier this week of 142 long-term care homes with cases of the coronavirus, 120 residents have the virus at CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée in Laval. 

Fifty-five residents have died at the residence since March 17, according to documents obtained by Radio-Canada this week, a figure eight times that of the home’s usual monthly death rate. 

Last month, reports surfaced that managers of the home on Samson Boulevard had forced employees with symptoms to come into work because it was so short-staffed. 

But the union says it has happened again at least three times since, including this week, when at the end of a nurse’s shift Thursday, she received her positive COVID-19 result. 

‘It’s a carnage; it’s a nightmare’

“They’re making the same mistakes that caused this carnage — because, for me, it’s a carnage; it’s a nightmare for the workers, as well as the clients,” said Jean-François Houle, a vice-president at the union representing workers of the CISSS de Laval, the city’s local health board. 

Houle said Friday on Radio-Canada’s Tout un matin that the nurse began presenting symptoms of the virus this week.

She got tested and decided to stay home Wednesday while she waited for the results, but was reprimanded by her manager for not coming into work, he said. 

The Centre d’hebergement Sainte-Dorothee is seen Tuesday, April 7, 2020 in Laval, Que. The long-term care residence has reported more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Houle said the manager urged the nurse to come in for her 7:30 a.m. shift Thursday. When personal support workers got wind of the situation, Houle said they contacted him and he sent an email to the CISSS’s human relations department.

He did not hear back, and the nurse went to work Thursday. At 3:30 p.m. when she got off, she got the result.

“It’s the thousand-dollar question,” Houle said, when asked why the nurse was told to come into work despite her symptoms.

“I think there’s just such a lack of personnel, and reinforcements haven’t arrived as fast as expected,so there are some managers forcing people to come in.”

The nurse wore a mask and gloves for her interactions with residents, Houle said, but didn’t while she was triaging their medications in the home’s nurses room. 

“Right now, I can’t tell you whether those meds were distributed to patients or not,” Houle said.

A CISSS de Laval spokesperson, Julie Lamarche, told Tout un matin that all of the CHSLD began testing employees April 6. She said they are screened for symptoms at the entrance of the residence. 

“So that woman would have been asked whether she had symptoms or not,” Lamarche said.

But Houle said the nurse’s manager was aware of her symptoms.

She said staff now have to wear masks at all times, including in the nurses room, which wasn’t the case before. The CISSS has added “coaches” at the CHSLD to guide employees through the new protocols, Lamarche added. 

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