Connect with us

Canada

How one Montreal long-term care home managed to keep COVID-19 away

MONTREAL — The Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre long-term care home in southwest Montreal houses some of the patients most vulnerable to succumbing to a pandemic, including 18 who live on ventilators full time.

But as COVID-19 swept through Montreal’s nursing homes like a seemingly unstoppable force, the Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre achieved a rare feat: not a single positive case, much less any COVID-19 deaths.

Montreal is the Canadian hotspot for COVID-19, with over 28,772 cases and 3,437 deaths as of Friday. Around 80 per cent of the province’s deaths have occurred in seniors residences and long-term care homes.

Information obtained from Montreal’s five health boards suggest only a handful of facilities were able to avoid infection. In addition to Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre, those include two private facilities in the northern region, one small facility located within a hospital and one larger public care home.

A few others, including the Montreal Chinese Hospital, were able to stop the virus from spreading despite one or two cases.

Judith Morlese, a nurse-manager at the Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre, believes the facility’s success in keeping out COVID-19 was about more than just luck.

She says rapid action, dedicated infection-control teams and constant communication with staff were some of the keys to keeping the virus at bay, and they could provide a blueprint for other homes to follow if a second wave occurs.

Morlese said acting early, often ahead of the provincial government directives, was central to preventing infection.

The centre began developing a pandemic plan in January, before the first case in the province was declared, and made the decision early on to ban visitors and require staff members returning from overseas to stay home until testing showed they were not infected.

By February, meetings to discuss the pandemic were held daily.

Staff members were brought on board early and subjected to a thorough screening process every day before work. They were told to stay home and get tested at the first appearance of symptoms.

As cases began to crop up elsewhere, anxiety rose. Employees were met at the beginning of every shift and reminded to treat all patients, and each other, as if they were positive.

“We were nervous because we saw what was happening, and we felt bad for our partners in the network, we were scared,” Morlese said in an interview. “So that’s the truth. We were really, really scared.”

Morlese says much of the home’s success came from diligently following the simple health directives regarding sanitizing equipment, hand-washing and wearing of protective equipment.

However, the facility also had two advantages that many of the others didn’t: namely, a skilled infection-control team and the ability to limit staff from working in multiple facilities.

The 135-bed facility is also linked to the Lachine Hospital and is part of the McGill University Health Centre, which proved an advantage because it meant better access to epidemiologists and other experts, according to Morlese.

France Nadon, an infection-control consultant at the home, said part-time workers with multiple jobs were asked not to work elsewhere if they wanted to keep working at the Pavillon.

Those who stayed were offered full-time work, which helped the home to avoid the staff shortages that authorities have cited as a weak point that allowed COVID-19 to enter in so many homes.

Infection-control specialists were on hand to answer employee questions and give refresher courses on the proper use of protective equipment, Nadon said.

Between 10 and 15 employees acquired COVID-19 outside of work, but none of them passed it on to patients — which Nadon says is a tribute to the vigilance they showed when it came to handwashing, disinfecting, and physical distancing.

“They respected the rules, they kept their masks on, they washed their hands and visors,” she said.

Henry Siu, a McMaster University associate professor who has studied long-term care preparedness, says researchers are still studying what factors translate into success in fighting the virus.

While much is unknown, he says the homes that were early adopters of measures such as stricter visitation policies and limiting workers to one facility may have had better outcomes.

In Ontario, he said, private homes seem to have fared worse, possibly because of aging buildings designed to house multiple residents in one room and inadequate space for distancing.

He said that while “luck probably does have a part to play” in which homes suffer major outbreaks, those that are proactive, have up-to-date infection-control protocols and strong leadership “are going to be much better equipped to deal with outbreaks.”

As health authorities warn of a potential second wave, Siu said he’s hopeful that Canadian long-term care homes will be better prepared.

But while they may have become more vigilant about distancing, hygiene and monitoring for symptoms, he said systemic issues, including poor home designs and low pay and poor working conditions that force workers to hold multiple jobs, are harder to solve.

Nadon and Morlese say aren’t celebrating their home’s success just yet.

Though they’re tired, they remain focused on the possibility of a second wave, which could come just as they also have to fight an onslaught of flu and other seasonal respiratory viruses.

Morlese says that while the worry isn’t gone, they feel more prepared this time.

“We’re less stressed because we know what we have to deal with,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2020

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading
Comments

Canada

Helicopter was preparing to land before fatal Newfoundland crash: TSB

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says a helicopter that crashed near a Newfoundland lake last month was preparing to land and refuel before the pilot lost control of the aircraft.

The federal agency shared new details today about the ongoing investigation into the July 20 crash that killed one man near Thorburn Lake, about 200 kilometres northwest of St. John’s.

Three men were on board the Robinson R44 light utility helicopter that had left Springdale Airport in Newfoundland on one leg of a cross-country pleasure flight.

The pilot had planned to refuel at a maintenance facility on the northeast side of the lake and completed a circuit around the gravel parking lot where he wanted to land.

TSB investigators say as the helicopter began to climb vertically from tree-top level, the pilot lost control and the aircraft crashed into the ground.

RCMP said a 69-year-old Gambo man died at the scene and two others, a 68-year-old man from Aquaforte and a 54-year-old man from St. John’s, were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Canada

Man pleads guilty in gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

WETASKIWIN, Alta. — A man who was charged with second-degree murder after an Alberta gas station owner was killed in a gas-and-dash has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Ki Yun Jo, who was 54, was killed outside his Fas Gas station in Thorsby, about 70 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, on Oct. 6, 2017.

Police have said he tried to stop a driver who sped off in a stolen white cub van without paying for fuel.

A witness saw Jo hanging onto the van’s passenger side mirror and, when the vehicle swerved, he was tossed to the ground and run over.

Twenty-nine year old Mitchell Robert Sydlowski of Spruce Grove, Alta., also pleaded guilty in a Wetaskiwin courtroom to failing to remain at the scene of a fatal accident.

Shortly after Jo’s death, the Alberta government moved to bring in legislation requiring drivers to prepay before filling up at gas stations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 14, 2020

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Canada

Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica faces funding crunch as COVID-19 curbs tourism

MONTREAL — One of Canada’s best-known religious landmarks, the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, is seeking urgent government assistance to withstand a budget shortfall caused by COVID-19.

Claudia Morissette, director of the historic church in Old Montreal, said Notre-Dame expects to be short about $12 million in revenues this year as cultural events and guided visits remain suspended due to the pandemic.

“It’s huge. It represents 85 per cent of our total revenue,” Morissette said in an interview.

She said that money is “absolutely necessary” to preserve and restore the stone church, which was constructed in the 1820s in the Gothic Revival style and remains one of the main tourist destinations in the city, welcoming around one million visitors per year before the pandemic.

A first phase of restoration work is already underway on its facade, but Morissette said the church is concerned it will not be able to finance the second and third phases of restoration on the building’s east and west towers.

These first three phases are expected to cost $9.2 million out of a total of nearly $30 million of work needed to preserve and restore the building over the next decade, the church estimates.

“We can’t press pause (on phases two and three) because that would risk putting the integrity of the towers in peril and (could) even become dangerous,” said Morissette, adding that delays on the work could also lead to an increase in overall costs.

Notre-Dame is not the only church in Quebec facing economic challenges due to COVID-19, which has hit the province hard.

Across the province, where the Catholic Church historically played a central role but has seen a decline in recent decades, many churches have struggled to pay rent and maintain their aging buildings as the pandemic forced them this spring to suspend in-person services.

Quebec’s Culture Department announced last month that it would invest $15 million to preserve religious heritage, targeting 62 buildings and three organs. Culture Minister Nathalie Roy said the investment also would help stimulate the economy and create jobs for artisans and labourers.

Morissette said Notre-Dame received $1 million last year from Quebec’s Religious Heritage Council, a non-profit organization that supports the conservation of historic buildings, to help finance part of phase one of its restoration. But the church did not get any of the new funding.

“We understand that (the money) goes quickly, and we also understand that we’re not the only ones. We know that COVID-19 affected many people,” Morissette said. “But we’re a major attraction. We are one of the major patrimonial jewels.”

The Quebec Culture Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press.

Andreanne Jalbert-Laramee, cultural heritage adviser at Quebec’s Religious Heritage Council, said that if Notre-Dame is struggling, smaller and less renowned churches are no doubt struggling, too.

“The worry is that if their financial situation is difficult, they will delay these restoration projects, this work, and that will make the situation even more difficult for those buildings,” Jalbert-Laramee said in an interview.

She said that while about $40 million is needed to restore and preserve religious heritage buildings across Quebec, the government’s $15-million investment is a good step.

“These are interventions that are essential for the survival of these buildings,” Jalbert-Laramee said. “We see that the need is great, the need is there.”

For her part, Morissette said she remains concerned the Notre-Dame Basilica will not be able to finance its restoration.

While daily masses resumed last month, guided tours and shows that draw tourists to the church have not — meaning that Notre-Dame missed out on the summer tourist season, which typically draws hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The church said it sold nearly 833,500 tickets for guided tours and over 227,000 tickets to its light show called Aura in 2018.

Morissette called for any of the three levels of government — federal, provincial and municipal — to provide urgent financial aid to help Notre-Dame withstand its losses.

“Because it’s the symbol of the founding of the City of Montreal, that it’s one of the most well-known religious monuments in North America, that it’s the main tourist attraction in Old Montreal … we need to preserve this gem so that the next generations can enjoy it,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 DAILY PATRON powered by Media Nri Ltd.