In wake of outbreak, health officials say Maimonides long-term care home staff not travelling between zones

·3 min read

Health officials at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Cote-Saint-Luc refute a nurse's assertion that staff are made to travel between hot and cold zones, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to 45 at the residence.

They say they have added several precautions since the first wave, including employees whose sole purpose is to make sure protocols are being followed and personal protective equipment is worn and discarded properly.

"Staff stay in the same unit," said Jennifer Clarke, site coordinator at Maimonides.

"It could be that a staff member was asked to move to a hot zone because maybe we need extra support there, but then they do not return to the regular care unit."

Monday, a nurse at Maimonides told CBC a colleague had been forced to work in one of the regular units after having worked in the centre's hot zone on the seventh floor.

The nurse, whom CBC agreed not to name, said the home is short-staffed and workers are questioning the quality of the personal protective equipment (PPE) they are provided, as seven staff members tested positive on one floor.

"The morale is low. We are burned out. We are tired. At night, there is one nurse and one patient attendant for 70 patients," she said.

Clarke agreed staff are tired, but that there are no serious staff shortages at the centre. She said the Quebec government program to train thousands of patient attendants benefited the centre, as 70 new patient attendants were sent to work there.

"The staff are feeling the burden of the pandemic. In the first wave, we were running on adrenaline. But heading into the second wave, you can feel it — they're feeling discouraged."

Four Maimonides residents have died since the outbreak began more than a week ago at the centre.

Clarke said the outbreak has been traced to a resident who was infected by their caregiver.

The centre holds a testing clinic three days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., where staff and caregivers are encouraged to regularly get tested. Clarke says the centre cannot legally force them to be tested, but that testing becomes mandatory once an outbreak is declared.

The centre considers one positive case sufficient to declare an outbreak "because we know that once we have one case, it can very easily spread," she said.

Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, the president of the health board overseeing Maimonides, CIUSSS West Central Montreal, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, reassuring residents and their families that staff were not transferred from hot to cold zones.

"To those who are ill and to their loved ones, I would like to express my deepest concern, as well as my assurances that everything possible is being done to support the residents' recovery," Rosenberg wrote.

"It is also worth noting that representatives of the Public Health Department visited Maimonides on Friday. Although their official report has not been released yet, they have already spoken to us and given their approval for the measures we have put in place."