Maimonides shuts down crowded hot zone, transfers COVID-19 patients to hospitals

·2 min read

The Maimonides Geriatric Centre transferred most of its patients with COVID-19 to local hospitals on Sunday in an effort to contain an outbreak that has already killed 10 people.

Public health authorities decided on Saturday to move 20 coronavirus patients offsite after growing concern that a cramped and poorly ventilated ward was contributing to the outbreak.

Two patients, whose conditions are more severe, are going to the Jewish General Hospital and 18 less severe cases will go to Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Ten other patients who are recovering from infections will remain at Maimonides.

Patient attendants and nurses from the facility will accompany the infected residents to hospital.

The number of COVID-19 infections at Maimonides has jumped dramatically since the beginning of the month.

Roughly a dozen staff members have also tested positive, despite taking the required safety precautions, health officials said.

Jean-Claude Taliana/CBC
Jean-Claude Taliana/CBC

That raised suspicions about air circulation in the ward where COVID-19 patients are treated, which has become crowded as the outbreak worsened.

"We think that if we put too many acute cases together in the same area on one floor, it is possible that the ventilation is not strong enough to ventilate properly," said Francine Dupuis, the associate CEO of the health authority that oversees Maimonides.

Dupuis added it was possible the outbreak at Maimonides will lead to new public health guidelines for long-term care homes, namely that they should avoid grouping many COVID-19 patients together in small spaces.

"These are nursing homes — they were not built for acute care," she said.

Families remain concerned

The milder cases, who were sent to Hôtel-Dieu, are expected to return to Maimonides within eight to 10 days.

"When they are considered rehabilitated they can go back to their residence," Dupuis said.

But an advocacy group for families of residents at Maimonides says health authorities still need to do more to contain the outbreak at the facility.

They are calling for all staff members to be tested for the virus. The group is also concerned about low staffing levels and a shortage of N95 surgical masks.

Simon Nakonechny/CBC
Simon Nakonechny/CBC

"We're not out of the woods because there are issues that are not being addressed yet," said Joyce Shanks, a spokesperson for the advocacy group and whose father is a resident at the facility.

Since the beginning of the second wave, 10 people have died of COVID-19 at Maimonides, according to the latest figures provided by the Quebec government.

Last week, a staff member at Maimonides told CBC Montreal that nurses were being instructed to work in both hot zones and non-COVID wards ("cold zones").

The provincial government has tried to limit the number of health care staff who work in both hot zones and cold zones as the practise was blamed for hundreds of deadly outbreaks in long-term care homes this spring.

Regional health officials denied the nurse's allegation.