Quebec’s premier says more than 2,000 doctors stepped up and answered his plea to help in overburdened nursing homes ravaged by the novel coronavirus.
“I’m very happy, I’m very touched and I want to thank the doctors who offered a helping hand in the CHSLDs,” said François Legault.
The assistance comes as the province saw its biggest spike to date in deaths attributable to COVID-19, bringing Quebec’s total number of fatalities to 630. The deaths include a doctor from the Monteregie region, but public health director Horracio Arruda said the victim wasn’t working in a health-care setting.
Legault said the majority of the 143 deaths announced on Thursday did not happen in a single day. He said the jump in deaths comes after the government changed its post-mortem tests.
The respiratory illness has led to 15,857 confirmed cases in the province — up 997 from the previous day. More than 1,000 people are hospitalized, and 209 of them are in intensive care.
“As you can see, if we look at the situation in hospitals, the situation is under control and starting to stabilize,” said Legault, adding that the province’s priority is protecting seniors.
However, Legault said the lack of staffing in nursing homes remains his “biggest concern.”
“It won’t always be perfect, but it’s time to unite all together and win this collective battle,” he said.
The provincial government has also requested help from the federal government, with the possibility of the Canadian Forces providing assistance, but Legault said he is awaiting more details.
On Wednesday, Legault had appealed to medical specialists and family physicians to help out in long-term care facilities. In Quebec, officials say there are at least 41 centres requiring special attention due to a high number of cases.
Quebec’s Collège des médecins, which monitors medical practices in the province, said doctors have a duty to respond to the crisis and heed Legault’s call.
In a statement, the order said on Thursday it “strongly encourages physicians to carry out any task related to healthcare where there is a glaring need, as is currently the case in CHSLDs.”
The Quebec government has also once again extended its public health emergency until at least April 24.
The ministerial declaration, which was announced a month ago, was renewed on Wednesday evening.
— With files from Global News’ Mike Armstrong and the Canadian PressView link »