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After long-term care, Quebec private seniors residences a growing COVID-19 concern – Pipeline News

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MONTREAL — A slow but steady rise of COVID-19 cases in Quebec’s private seniors residences in recent weeks is causing concern among experts and authorities, who want to avoid the disaster that befell long-term care homes during the first wave of the novel coronavirus.

As of Wednesday evening, there were 39 private residences in Quebec with 180 COVID-19 cases between them listed on the government’s website. Four among them were described as “critical” because more than 25 per cent of their residents were infected.

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In comparison, only 20 long-term care homes were listed as having cases. One facility was listed as critical.

Yves Desjardins, the head of a group representing hundreds of seniors residences, says the number of facilities affected and the total number of COVID-19 cases in the network remains low. He said, however, managers are watching the trend carefully.

Unlike the first wave of the virus, which was concentrated in long-term care, the second has the virus spreading throughout the community, according to health officials. Desjardins says community spread poses a risk for people living in seniors residences because they are generally more active than are residents of long-term care homes.

“We have a clientele that is much more autonomous, that move around, families coming to visit, workers coming to the residence,” Desjardins said in a recent interview. “The virus is circulating in the community, and we’re in the community.”

Health Minister Christian Dube has expressed concern about cases appearing in private seniors homes, known as RPAs. On Sept. 15, he tightened health directives in those facilities, mandating that masks be worn in common areas such as hallways and elevators.

“The RPAs, for me, that’s our next problem if we’re not careful,” he said on Sept. 15.

Seniors residences must record the names of guests, who are required to wear masks. Despite the rules, there have been some outbreaks.

The four seniors residences listed as critical are located in the Quebec City area and in the region to its south, called Chaudiere-Appalaches. The RPA called Villa Ste-Rose in Laval, north of Montreal, has seen cases jump from four to 18 in recent days.

Dube said this week that while some cases in seniors residences are unavoidable, public health is contacting each place to ensure infection-control measures are being followed.

Louis Demers, a professor at Quebec’s public administration school, known as Ecole nationale d’administration publique, says the province should be concerned.

By raising the salaries of orderlies in long-term care homes, he said the government may have lured people away from the public sector. That attempt to reverse critical staff shortages in long-term care has the potential to increase seniors residences’ dependence on employment agencies.

“If your personnel is insufficient, and you have to choose between not giving a woman a bath, or giving one by someone who might have the virus, what do you do?” he said in a recent interview.

A major issue that contributed to hundreds of deaths in long-term care homes in the spring was the fact employees worked in more than one facility, often carrying the virus with them to vulnerable and captive populations.

Desjardins said it’s nearly impossible to “100 per cent” ensure staff only work at one residence, especially when some health professionals come in and out to provide services.

He said, however, that owners of residences generally ask staffing agencies to ensure personnel don’t rotate between facilities. When it comes to professionals providing medical services, they are asked not to visit multiple places in the same day, he explained.

Both Demers and Desjardins said private seniors residences are better prepared to face a second wave than long-term care homes were prepared to face the first wave of the novel coronavirus last spring.

Owners have a set of clear guidelines explaining which measures to impose based on the alert levels in their regions, covering everything from visitors to cafeteria dining. Infection-control measures are now known and understood, and personal protective equipment such as masks are available, Desjardins said.

Demers said the population in seniors residences are healthier than in long-term care homes and generally live in their own small apartments, which makes distancing easier. They’re also less likely to suffer from cognitive problems such as dementia.

He believes the government’s biggest challenge when it comes to private seniors homes is to find the right balance of measures that will protect people from the virus while allowing them the social contact that’s essential to their mental health.

After witnessing the hardships caused by the restrictive measures placed on seniors homes last spring — such as including banning all visitors and limiting movement — there’s little appetite for another lockdown, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

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October 25, 2020 – COVID-19 Update from Dr. Theresa Tam – Net Newsledger

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OTTAWA – COVID-19: In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement Sunday:

“As the resurgence of COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are tracking a range of epidemiological indicators to monitor where the disease is most active, where it is spreading and how it is impacting the health of Canadians and public health, laboratory and healthcare capacity. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to maintain COVID-19 at manageable levels across the country.

Since the first cases were reported in March 2020, there have been 213,959 cases of COVID-19, including 9,922 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though the cumulative number is high and continues to increase, it is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. This is why it is important for everyone to continue with individual precautions that will keep ourselves, our families and our communities safer.

At this time, there are 24,401 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 2,488 new cases (Oct 16-22) and 74,719 people tested, with 3.1% testing positive (Oct 11-17). Outbreaks continue to contribute to COVID-19 spread in Canada. These vary in size from just a few cases to larger clusters occurring in a range of settings including long term care and assisted living facilities, schools, congregate living settings, industrial work settings and large social gatherings. Larger clusters tell us that closed and crowded settings and/or not sufficiently maintaining public health practises, such as physical distancing and mask wearing, can amplify spread of the virus.

While I know keeping physically apart is difficult, particularly when we want to mark life’s important moments like weddings and funerals, now is not the time for hosting large in-person gatherings. Right now, doing the best thing to keep our family, friends and community safer means keeping safely apart, connecting virtually, and finding safer ways to care and support each other.

The number of people experiencing severe illness continues to increase. Provincial and territorial data, indicate that an average of 1,010 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Oct 16-22), including 209 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 23 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily.

As hospitalisations and deaths tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks, the concern is that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts associated with the ongoing increase in COVID-19 disease activity. As well, influenza and respiratory infections typically increase during the Fall and Winter, placing increased demands on hospitals. This is why it is so important for people of all ages to maintain public health practises that keep respiratory infection rates low.

Canada needs a collective effort to sustain the public health response through to the end of the pandemic, while balancing the health, social and economic consequences. We can all do our part by keeping our number of in-person close contacts low and committing to proven effective public health practises; stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, maintain physical distancing, wear a face mask as appropriate, and keep up with hand, cough and surface hygiene. Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practises and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities and by downloading the COVID Alert app to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others.”

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Canadian Press NewsAlert: Quebec reaches more than 100,000 total cases of COVID-19 – Airdrie Today

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MONTREAL — Quebec reached more than 100,000 total cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, becoming the first province in Canada to hit the somber milestone since the pandemic began in March.

But despite remaining the country’s coronavirus epicentre, public health experts say a recent downward trend of infections is an encouraging sign.

“It’s a moment where we all sit up and say wow, 100,000 – that’s a lot of zeroes,” said Erin Strumpf, an associate professor at McGill University specialized in health economics.

“But again I think the more important thing to be paying attention to is the trend that we’ve been seeing recently in the province.”

The province reported 879 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 100,114 infections since the start of the pandemic.

The curve of new infections appears to have flattened over the past few weeks though, Strumpf said in an interview.

That downward trend, she said, coincides with stricter public health guidelines that aimed to stem the spread of the virus.

The government ordered the closure of bars and gyms, among other places, in hard-hit areas and advised residents to limit their contact with people who do not live in their households.

Montreal and Quebec City are among several Quebec regions that remain under the highest COVID-19 alert.

Strumpf said it is hard to pinpoint what exact measures are responsible for flattening the curve, however.

She added that she expects to see many public health restrictions remain in place moving forward. “It’s very difficult to know right now or to predict how long those closures may stay in place,” she said.

Still, the high COVID-19 infection numbers bring up painful memories for Quebecers who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

July Mak, whose 68-year-old father Paul contracted COVID-19 in a long-term care home in Montreal and died at the end of March, said the pain of her father’s death has not eased with time.

“To see these numbers this high… it blows my mind,” Mak said in an interview Sunday.

She said she wants the Quebec government to recognize that its COVID-19 data is more than just numbers — and thousands of people across the province have been directly affected.

“They mattered,” Mak said, about the thousands who have died.

On Sunday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said on Twitter that the number of new infections is “stable but remains high.”

Those cases can turn into hospitalizations and deaths, Dube warned, urging Quebecers to remain vigilant to reduce transmission.

Quebec health officials also reported 11 additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 6,143.

Five of those additional deaths took place in the past 24 hours, five were reported between Oct. 18-23 and one occurred at an unspecified date.

Hospitalizations went up by two across the province, for a total of 551. Of those, 97 people were in intensive care — an increase of four compared to the previous day.

The province said it conducted 25,378 COVID-19 tests on Friday, the last date for which the testing data is available.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Canadian Press

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With 879 new COVID-19 cases, Quebec passes grim 100,000 milestone – Timmins Times

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The province also reported 11 more deaths as the cumulative total of cases reached 100,114.

With Quebec surpassing the 100,000 mark in new COVID-19 cases Sunday, it’s clear the winter ahead will be challenging, two epidemiologists said.

“I’m concerned that we’ve reached the 100,000 mark,” said Catherine Hankins, a professor of public health at McGill University and co-chair of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

“We’re just at the start of what will be a cold winter, so we really need to ramp up our public health response,” she said.

A major challenge will be to achieve a balance between distancing measures to check the virus’s spread and mental-health issues caused by loss of social contact, especially as winter weather forces people indoors, Hankins said.

We should take inspiration from the Scandinavian saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” she suggested.

“We should be able to get out in all types of weather and keep active if we dress appropriately, with the layers that we need,” she said.

Hankins proposed that the phrase “social distancing,” should be replaced by “physical distancing.”

There are still ways to connect with others while practising safety measures like avoiding gatherings, wearing masks, keeping a two-metre distance from people outside our household and hand washing, she said.

“One thing that’s important is that people continue to exercise,” she said.

“For our own mental health, we do need to keep physically active and, although physically distanced, we need to keep socially active, even if it’s by phone or online.”

For people who aren’t comfortable with videoconference apps, the good, old-fashioned telephone is a great way to stay in touch, she said.

“Pick up the phone. Don’t hesitate to call somebody. Don’t feel like you’re interrupting or bother them. Just pick up the phone and give them a call,” Hankins added.

Quebec reported 879 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 1,009 new cases Saturday, bringing the total to 100,114 since the first case was reported on Feb. 29.

Infections from Quebec continue to account for nearly half of Canada’s total, which stood at 213,959 on Saturday night.

Ontario, the province with the second-most infections, topped 1,000 cases for the first time on Sunday to reach a total of 70,373.

“I’m concerned to see that Ontario is getting up to our levels now. And I am really concerned when I look at places in Europe that thought they had it under some kind of reasonable control,” Hankins said.

Quebec has recorded more than 1,000 cases in seven of the last 10 days.

The province reported 11 more deaths on Sunday. Five of those fatalities occurred in the last 24 hours, another five occurred between Oct. 18 and 24 and one was from an unknown date.

The number of deaths associated with the virus now stands at 6,143.

The number of hospitalizations increased by two to 551. Of the patients hospitalized because of the virus, 97 are in intensive care, an increase of four from Saturday.

Of the new cases reported on Sunday, 146 were in Montreal, where a total of 40,869 have now been reported.

For the first time in a week, Montreal was not the region with the most new cases. Montérégie, with 162, reported the highest total.

Jay Kaufman, an epidemiologist at McGill University, said that with 800-1000 cases a day for almost three weeks now, “Quebec is not doing so badly” compared to many European countries and the United States.

However, with Quebec continuing to have the worst case counts in Canada, “there is still lots of room for concern,” he said.

The fact cases have plateaued in Quebec show distancing measures are working, he said.

“The cases are not declining, however, and hospitalizations are way up, and so I suspect that we will not be able to reopen closed businesses for some time still, which is terrible news for those businesspeople,” he added.

Hankins said there should be more emphasis on the contact-tracing cell phone app to fight the virus’s spread.

Additional measures to protect vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities that were hard hit during the first wave are essential, she added.

“We know that they’re an Achilles heel,” she said.

“This is the most vulnerable population and we really need to make sure that we get it right this time as best we can.”

mscott@postmedia.com

With additional reporting by David Rudin

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