Second World War veteran denounces slow COVID-19 reaction at Ste. Anne’s Hospital

Click to play video 'WWII Veteran concerned about prevention of COVID-19 at the Ste Anne Hospital' WWII Veteran concerned about prevention of COVID-19 at the Ste Anne Hospital
WATCH: 97-year-old Wolf Solkin has nearly seen it all in his lifetime. But the COVID-19 oubreak gripping the province is something he never expected to see. Global's Dan Spector explains. – Apr 17, 2020

There are two confirmed COVID-19 cases at Ste. Anne’s Hospital for veterans in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, and a 97-year-old Second World War veteran is denouncing the hospital for its slow reaction to the coronavirus crisis.

“I wrote something not long ago called ‘Russian roulette,’ because that’s what they’re playing with our lives,” said Wolf Solkin, who fought in Belgium during the Second World War and has lived at Ste Anne’s Hospital for seven years.

The West Island CIUSSS says a patient presenting no symptoms was admitted to Ste. Anne’s and placed into confinement on March 23. The patient began showing COVID-19 symptoms, and was transferred to the Verdun Hospital on April 6th.

READ MORE: Veteran complains care at Ste. Anne hospital still not adequate

She tested positive for COVID-19 on April 8. Last week, Solkin wrote a letter to the West Island CIUSSS blasting them for not testing the patient before they were admitted to Ste. Anne’s.

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Now, Ste. Anne’s has two confirmed cases of COVID-19, one of whom is a veteran.

“I feel pretty damn lousy,” said Solkin of his reaction to two COVID-positive patients living in the same building as him. “After weeks of urging, pleading, screaming, they’re finally doing some things, mostly on a reactive basis.”

The CIUSSS tells Global News it quickly identified everyone who had come into contact with the first COVID-19-positive patient, and then tested the identified residents, veterans and employees.

Solkin was tested on Friday, and says his results came back negative on Tuesday. He feels it would be very hard to beat the virus if he caught it, but death is not what scares him.

“I’m not afraid to die. I figure I’m on borrowed time anyway. But I would not like to die where I cannot hug my wife, or kiss my children, or hold their hold their hands. That’s not a way to go — that’s a terrible punishment,” Solkin said, fighting back tears.

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The CIUSSS says all veterans, residents and staff living there will be tested in the coming weeks, and that the necessary precautions are now in place.

Solkin feels the veterans’ hospital has been slow to react to the coronavirus.

“I begged them to institute masks for employees,” he told Global News. “I had to fight to compel them to get employees to wash their hands before getting in the building.”

He says even earlier this week a staff member entered his room wearing no protective equipment.

“I said what are you doing? Where’s your mask? Where’s your gown? And he answered me, ‘je n’ai pas besoin.'”

MNA Greg Kelley wrote a letter to West Island health authorities this week about sending help to Ste. Annes.

READ MORE: Ottawa sending CAF nursing officers, medical technicians to Quebec nursing homes

“These people served our country in wars, then after that served our communities for a long time. Keeping people like Wolf and all the other veterans there at the hospital safe is our duty,” Kelley said, adding he thinks the military should be sent in if necessary.

On Wednesday, the West Island CIUSSS announced reinforcements were on the way, including infection control experts from the McGill University Health Centre.

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Solkin says overworked staff are not coming to provide the basics as often as before.

“I have to be washed, cleaned, my diaper has to be changed, my catheter has to be changed,” he explained.

Adept with his iPad, Solkin is dealing just fine with the lack of visitors, but points to others who have nobody to come see them even in normal times.

“My wife comes to see me. Some of my grandchildren live in the area, but some guys don’t have anybody.”

He predicts a major economic depression because of COVID-19, and this is coming from someone who lived through the Great Depression in the 1930s.

“I remember the long bread lines, the public bread lines. I remember the soup lines,” he recalled.

Solkin has a class-action lawsuit in the works against the government, alleging the quality of care has gone downhill at the hospital since it was transferred from federal control to provincial control four years ago.

He doesn’t anticipate the case being delayed, and plans to keep fighting for the rights of all veterans there.