With coronavirus crisis safety measures in place, Quebec long-term care homes are now all supposed to be accepting family caregivers within their walls, save for a few exceptions.
Ste. Anne’s Hospital, which houses both veterans and civilians, is not one of those exceptions. Yet despite it not being on the government’s list of residences allowed to reject family caregivers, 63-year-old Dorval resident Cynthia D’Errico says she is still not being allowed in to care for her 97-year-old mother with dementia.
“I’m so frustrated, I can’t find the words,” D’Errico told Global News on Wednesday.
Her mother has lived at Ste. Anne’s Hospital for three years. Usually, either she or one of her other siblings is in every single day to visit but since mid-March, they have not been allowed in to see their mother.
“I feel brokenhearted because it’s literally impossible with her dementia to make her understand why her children aren’t there,” explained D’Errico.
When the province announced family members would be allowed into long-term care homes to act as caregivers for their elderly loved ones as of May 11, D’Errico was relieved and excited.
“I underwent the training, and at the end was told ‘the hospital will call you, they’re working out the logistics,'” she says.
A week-and-a-half later, she hasn’t received the green light to go into Ste. Anne’s. There are currently no COVID-19 cases there.
“To me, there seems to be no good reason. Ste. Anne’s is a green zone. There were nine of us at the training. I’m sure, like me, everyone feels we’re going to follow the protocols to the letter, being so grateful at this opportunity to see our loved ones,” she said.
There are 12 different long-term care homes in the province where Quebec has given special authorization to delay the entry of family caregivers.
“If a residence doesn’t want to welcome caregivers for any reason, they have to ask the permission to the Ministère de la Santé,” explained Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbeault.
The Health Ministry provided Global News with the complete list on Tuesday, and Ste. Anne’s Hospital was not on it.
“I will be able to be there on behalf of my siblings and my family to reassure my mother that, no, she hasn’t been abandoned,” D’Errico said through tears.
However, inside Ste. Anne’s Hospital, there is opposition to family caregivers coming in, led by 97-year-old World War Two veteran Wolf Solkin.
“There are two key words: not yet,” Solkin told Global News.
Solkin, who fought on the front line in Europe in the Second World War, says the hospital has narrowly avoided a full-scale outbreak. At one point there were two COVID-19 cases in the building.
“We are escaping the invasion of coronavirus, by literally a hair’s breadth,” he said.
Solkin would love to have visitors himself, including his wife who he FaceTimes with every day. He says he is willing to wait, because with COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise in Montreal, he thinks it’s still too risky.
“We cannot let emotions prevail over reason,” said the veteran, who is also president of a users’ committee at the hospital.
D’Errico, respects his opinion, but still wants to go in.
“I love him. I love our veterans. I want them to be protected, in which case, Premier Legault should never have made the announcement,” she said.
The West Island Health Authority (CIUSSS) said in a statement it understands the entry of caregivers can make a real difference to residents, but has not made a decision yet on whether or not to let them in.
“Since the integration of caregivers worries some residents at the hospital because of the risks of spreading the virus, our team is trying to find solutions and is currently conducting follow-ups with residents and their families. A decision will be made shortly on this matter,” said West Island CIUSSS spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé.
The CIUSSS said their goal is to apply ministerial directives and ensure the protection of residents and staff.