Families worry about elderly parents in long-term care as Quebec's second COVID-19 wave hits

Some Quebecers say they're concerned about what this second wave of COVID-19 could mean for loved ones living in long-term care facilities.

More people in Quebec died in long-term care during the first wave of the disease than anywhere else in the country.

Patrizia Di Biase got a call Saturday morning from her mother, who told her she'd been tested again for COVID-19. It comes after an employee at the Herron Residence in Dorval recently tested positive for the disease.

The facility has been locked down as of last Monday. Staff and residents were swabbed Saturday and so far, nine results have come back negative.

"I'm not really surprised, I'm just glad and hoping it remains restrained to the low numbers that we're hearing," said Franco Leone, Di Biase's husband.

Herron became a focal point during the first wave, as 43 people died there since the pandemic began. Di Biase's 97-year-old mother caught the virus then, suffered no symptoms, and survived.

Di Biase said conditions and precautions have improved since then.

"They're always there for them. They're doing more than they've ever done," she said.

But long-term care homes are again becoming a source of concern among epidemiologists.

"I think there are signs of an increasing loss of control over these cases in the community," said epidemiologist Dr. Mathew Oughton.

Recently the Idola St-Jean home in Laval reported seven employees and 11 residents tested positive, which caused officials to suspend visits and test those inside three times a week. With the second wave in full swing, some say the spread is difficult to contain even with precautions.

"The more cases we have in the community, the more likely it is you're going to see it spill from your regular and healthy population into the higher risk groups," said Oughton.

One improvement over the first wave is orderlies. The union representing the workers points out some 7,000 orderlies have been hired since the pandemic began.

"That should limit that PABs (orderlies) are going from one establishment to another. That's a good thing," said Jeff Begley, president of the FSSS-CSN, Quebec's largest health care workers' union.

Other employees are still moving between hot and cold zones, though, and there's still not enough protective equipment, said Begley.

"It's been a worry from the very beginning, and we still haven't got a handle on it -- is the equipment," he said. 

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