Canadian Forces arrive at Montreal seniors’ residences, health authorities rushing to train volunteers

Canadian armed forces deployed to Quebec long term care homes amid COVID-19 crisis
WATCH: Canadian armed forces deployed to Quebec long term care homes amid COVID-19 crisis

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed to a public long-term care residence in Montreal on Saturday.

“People were clapping,” said Lieutenant Commander Heather Galbraith of the Royal Canadian Navy, describing the reaction as she and other soldiers entered Centre d’hébergement Yvon Brunet in Lasalle.

“Listen, this situation is so dire that people need help.”

Galbraith, a trained family doctor who grew up in Sudbury, Ont., is one of around 100 Canadian Forces medical personnel fanning out to Quebec seniors’ homes.

“We are essentially doing what we call in the Army, Navy and Airforce a ‘reccy,’ a reconnaissance of what needs are required from us, and how we are poised to provide assistance,” Galbraith said.

Yvon Brunet was the second residence the Forces assessed on Saturday, having visited Centre d’hébergement de Verdun earlier.

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Yvon Brunet has 105 cases of COVID-19 — 65 per cent of its residents are infected.

“Even if it’s the army, doctors, anybody, I’m happy there’s some help there,” said Gerard Blais, whose sister lives in the residence.

Though all the Canadian Forces personnel being deployed to Quebec have medical training, they don’t necessarily have experience dealing with the elderly.

“We have training packages that are being rolled out to try and best support our personnel so they have the know-how moving in. A lot of that will be learned on the job as well,” Galbraith said.

So far, the forces are focusing on five residences in Montreal.

“Unfortunately, many of our staff are sick. They have COVID-19,” said Ginette Senez of the CIUSSS Centre-Sud.

Even after bringing in extra help, it was not enough, Senez said, adding she was happy to see the Canadian Forces head into Centre d’hébergement Yvon Brunet.

Senez said when service members arrived to help, she asked that they remove their uniforms because she didn’t want to scare the residents.

Residences all over Montreal are having trouble keeping up with basic needs like feeding and changing diapers for seniors. Canadian soldiers are ready to step in.

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“Absolutely,” said Galbraith. “Our teams will do whatever we can.”

Another type of reinforcement is also on the way to seniors’ residences in the West Island. The West Island CIUSSS has teamed up with the Canadian Red Cross to train volunteers and new staff to help out in long-term care facilities.

“We’re training our new staff, volunteers and anyone who volunteered, really,” explained Genevieve Dumont of the West Island CIUSSS.

They have the capacity to train 40 people per day in classrooms they’ve created at a West Island hotel.

“Usually we send people outside of Canada to countries really in deep needs, but now we are bringing it home to our community,” said Michelle Mercier of the Canadian Red Cross.

They hope people will sign up to help in large numbers because the battle is far from over.