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Quebec premier calls for help to staff nursing homes as coronavirus death toll climbs

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec premier appeals for help in nursing homes as death toll rises
During a press conference on Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault called on teachers in the health-care field to help in the province's long term health care facilities, where the majority of deaths linked to COVID-19 have been reported in nursing homes, and are facing staff shortages.

Quebec’s premier is appealing for help in long-term care facilities grappling with staff shortages and hard hit by outbreaks during the novel coronavirus health crisis.

François Legault said the province’s priority remains helping nursing homes and protecting seniors amid the pandemic.

“We are deploying more professionals from hospitals to the residences but we are still lacking staff,” he said during his daily briefing on Tuesday.

“I am asking everybody available, every health worker to come forward and help us.”

READ MORE: LaSalle Hospital to open coronavirus unit for patients from seniors residences

In Quebec, 75 more people have died in a single day as a result of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, for a total of 435 deaths to date.

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There are 14,248 confirmed cases, according to Legault. There are 936 people in hospital, and 230 of them are in intensive care.

Coronavirus: Quebec calls for all hands on deck to help manage situation in long-term care residences
Coronavirus: Quebec calls for all hands on deck to help manage situation in long-term care residences

Legault said on Tuesday the provincial government is focused on protecting long-term care homes (CHSLDs). There are 41 centres that are being closely monitored, he added.

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While facilities were already dealing with staff shortages, Legault said that more than 1,200 workers who are usually present are absent due to illness.

READ MORE: Pre-existing staff shortages exacerbating situation in Quebec long-term care homes

The province has reassigned hundreds of health-care professionals to seniors residences, but Legault admitted that they need more staff.

“We need everybody,” he said.

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As the crisis deepens, the government has also called on teachers in health sciences and nursing to lend a helping hand.

“I asked them for their help, so I would like that they come, even if they are not forced to do so,” said Legault. “So, we need them. It’s a question of duty.”

Restrictions in nursing homes are also being eased. Horacio Arruda, the director of Quebec public health, announced that caregivers will be allowed to visit patients, but only if they meet certain criteria.

“It is not for families and visitors,” said Arruda. “I understand that it is difficult, but it is not.”

As part of the plan, caregivers must undergo tests for the virus and sign a consent form, he added.

Over the weekend, the government sent teams to inspect 40 private CHSLDs and Legault has said that all residences will be inspected in the coming days.

The inspection comes as a criminal investigation and coroner’s inquest were announced for the Herron residence in Dorval, Que., where 31 fatalities have been recorded since March 13. At least five of the deaths were due to COVID-19.

The City of Montreal also announced on Tuesday that is has extended its state of emergency to April 18. The measure was initially implemented on March 27.

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— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and the Canadian Press