Quebec doctors dispatched to nursing homes to help virus patients

By: AFP      Published: 05:22 PM, 21 Apr, 2020
Quebec doctors dispatched to nursing homes to help virus patients

Authorities in Canada's Quebec province, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, said Monday they will dispatch thousands of doctors to nursing and retirement homes to help take care of 4,000 seniors suffering from the illness.

The announcement follows a massive public outcry over the dire situation at the Herron retirement home in a Montreal suburb, where 31 people died in just a few weeks after their caregivers fled the premises, leaving residents to fend for themselves.

Quebec's premier, Francois Legault, said some 3,000 doctors would be sent to the facilities because the crisis anticipated in hospitals had not yet materialized. What "came as a big surprise was to see that there are 4,000 infected people in our residences" for senior citizens, Legault said during a press conference. "If someone had told me on day one this would happen, I would have said let's wait and see."

The situation is particularly critical in some 40 long-term care homes in the province, with one residence near Montreal reaching a 72 percent infection rate. Such long-term care homes need about 2,000 caregivers, according to Legault, due to the absence of personnel who have either been infected or are afraid of contracting the virus.

"We need hands in long-term care facilities," Legault said, while acknowledging he understood that given the risks, "there aren't many people who would want to go work in those residences."

On Monday, 100 specialists and 65 qualified members of the Canadian armed forces arrived as reinforcements in the senior residences. They soon will be followed by more than 2,000 medical students.

Quebec as of Monday reported more than half of the 36,000 coronavirus cases and 1,700 deaths in Canada, the majority in senior citizen residences.