An emergency physician working at the Jewish General Hospital says he’s experiencing the results of under-staffing at seniors’ residences first hand.
Dr. Vihn Kim Nguyen says the Jewish General is seeing more and more seniors admitted — not necessarily for COVID-19, but because of issues related to dehydration and starvation.
“We started to see a shift in the kinds of patients we’ve admitted to the hospital,” Nguyen told Global News.
“More and more patients are coming from old-age homes, nursing homes and CHSLD long-term care facilities, most of them coming in with dehydration, hypernatremia, high blood sodium, renal failure.”
He says the massive staff shortage in seniors’ homes means in many cases the elderly are not being sufficiently fed or hydrated.
“What became clear to us toward the end of last week was that some homes were sending residents to us, because they just couldn’t look after them anymore,” Nguyen said.
Karen Squires is certain her mother was not being provided basic care for days at her residence until help arrived early this week.
“They should’ve been prepared. They knew it was coming and they knew the elderly would be most at risk. It should’ve been taken seriously,” said Squires, whose mother lives at Vigi DDO.
Nguyen says the government’s choice to deny families and caregivers access to long-term care residences was a big reason for the neglect that developed.
“We knew these people were vulnerable, they had to be protected, and I think we misjudged the impact of that policy,” Nguyen said.
The health minister says the government is trying hard to bring in new staff to provide basic care. She pointed to efforts to recruit volunteers, train new workers, send doctors to residences and the army deployment.
“We hope that we are going to be able to stabilize very quickly the situation and really get the basics needs of everybody,” Danielle McCann said at the Quebec government’s daily COVID-19 press conference.
The good news is patients are recovering at the Jewish General. They’re being given fluids intravenously, and many are given iPads to connect with their families. The bad news is they might leave with new problems.
“If you’re elderly and you’ve been sick for four-five days, you lose muscle tone, you become de-conditioned, so we’re looking at dozens and dozens of our COVID patients that will need some rehab to strengthen enough to go back where they came from,” he explained.
He said there will be a “reckoning” when a greater discussion is had about what went wrong in the province’s seniors’ residences.