Coronavirus: Red Cross trains Armed Forces members for Quebec long-term care homes

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WATCH: Quebec's long-term care residences, hard hit by COVID-19, will be getting help from soldiers given a crash course by the Red Cross – Apr 29, 2020

A group of Canadian soldiers is being trained by the Canadian Red Cross before they are deployed to seniors’ homes beleaguered by the COVID-19 crisis.

Roughly 400 troops are taking the crash course at Ahuntsic College over the next few days, learning how to use personal protective equipment and communicate with the elderly.

According to military brass, about half of the soldiers slated to help out in seniors’ homes are reservists from the Montreal area, some of whom have already completed the training.

“We have one group that’s already in one of the long-term care facilities already, so that’s going very well,” said Colonel Tim Arsenault, Land Component Commander for Joint Task Force East.

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

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The training was set up and developed by the West Island health care agency in collaboration with the Red Cross.

“They trained us with their experts,” said Michelle Mercier, prevention and safety director for the Canadian Red Cross.  “Now we are passing on the training to the military [and other] people that raised their hands and say ‘I gotta help!'”

She explained that the four-hour training session includes lectures and some practice, but doesn’t end there.

“When they get into the CHSLD they might be teamed up with people that are already there to show them the finer things,” Mercier added.

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The troops were sent in response to Quebec Premiere François Legault’s request to the federal government, for soldiers to augment the more than 100 military medical personnel already in place, because of the staffing shortages in nursing homes.  In addition to the five residences already being supported, the military will be helping at another eight.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed to care homes in Quebec

“Our objective is to come in and help support, provide a constant and reliable flow of personnel throughout their work shifts,” Arsenault said.

Military crews will take care of smaller tasks to allow medical staff to care for patients.  With the troops and civilian volunteers, the government says the staffing crisis is easing.

“It’s getting a bit better,” according to Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann.  “We’re not over the situation — far from there at this point, but we see a small improvement.”

The soldiers expect to be fully deployed within a few days.

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