Despite having any symptoms for COVID-19 after resigning from CHSLD Herron in Dorval, nurse Kristy-Lyn Kemp insisted she be tested for the virus before starting a new job at another seniors residence.
“So I called (the COVID-19 hotline). … I told them I had been working at Herron, it was a COVID hot zone, I was around the sick, I was around people who were passing away but I was asymptomatic and they told me flat out, ‘nope you don’t need a test’,” said Kemp.
She said she called back a second time speaking French, out of fear they would recognize her voice from earlier, and pretended to be ill.
“I made up symptoms. I said I had a fever, I have a cough.”
The next day she had an appointment at the Beaconsfield testing centre — 24 hours later she learned she tested positive.
“I couldn’t believe the fact that I had to fight and lie to get a test and the possibility that I could have gone to my new job and brought it with me is absolutely terrifying,” said Kemp.
She stepped away from her duties after working as a nurse at CHSLD Herron in Dorval at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The residence west of Montreal is currently the subject of a Montreal police investigation and a coroner’s inquest following the deaths of 31 residents in a matter of a few weeks.
“I’m still struggling with the idea that we lost so many people,” Kemp said.
Instead, she chose to help in other ways. She served soup, spoke to seniors and sat with residents who would have died alone.
According to Kemp, her boss agreed with the new arrangement.
But when the Herron residence was placed under government trusteeship, she says West Island Public Health authorities insisted she continue as a nurse or not at all.
With that, she resigned from Herron and accepted her new job at a seniors residence in Lachine.
The West Island Public Health Board would not comment on the specifics of her case.
“Employees must have symptoms to be tested and the national screening strategy focuses on those at highest risk,” spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé wrote in a statement issued to Global News on Sunday.
A nurses union spokesperson agreed with the current testing criteria but also sympathized with what Kemp had to endure.
“I don’t think you should fake a symptom to ask to be tested, I think you should ask and it should be available,” said Elizabeth Rich, a spokesperson for the West Island Public Health Board Nurses Union.
Before heading back to the front lines, Kemp has to remain in isolation until she receives two negative results.
— With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise