Lessons Learned: West Island regional health agency preparing for second wave of coronavirus

Lessons Learned: West Island regional health authority prepares for possible second wave of coronavirus
in a one-one interview with Global News senior anchor Jamie Orchard, Lynne McVey, president and CEO of the West Island regional health authority, defends her organization's handling of the health crisis in long-term care facilities and how they are preparing for a possible second wave of coronavirus.

It’s been six weeks since the CIUSSS Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal first came into the public spotlight. That’s when the regional health authority announced it was taking over management of a private long-term care facility on its territory, CHSLD Herron, after 31 seniors died there in a month.

Since then, managing the eight public and 10 private long-term care facilities (CHSLDs) on its territory has been an ongoing challenge for CEO Lynne McVey as the CIUSSS Ouest-de-l’Île struggles with employees falling ill with the COVID-19.

“We currently have 318 staff members that are off sick with COVID-19,” she told Global News, adding that they have hired 844 new staff since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We want to be able to stay ahead of our staffing situation and to always have more staff coming in than we are losing who may have caught the virus.”

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READ MORE: Quebec coroner to investigate 31 deaths at seniors’ home in Montreal

Despite the new hires, McVey says CIUSSS Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal is still transferring staff between facilities.

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“We want to bring that down to zero per cent obviously,” she said.

She praised staff who demonstrated agility by leaving their work in hospital settings like St. Mary’s, LaSalle and the Lakeshore General Hospital to help in CHSLDs.

“We’re seeing the outcome now with the stabilization of our long-term care faciliites,” McVey said.

In an exclusive interview with Global News senior anchor Jamie Orchard on Tuesday, McVey says she welcomes an investigation launched by Quebec’s Ombudsman into the health ministry and the running of CHSLDs.

“This is certainly very welcome and our organization will fully cooperate with this investigation,” although McVey added she does not know whether any West Island organizations will be evaluated.

READ MORE: Quebec ombudsperson to investigate coronavirus crisis response in seniors residences

She also noted that the situation at CHSLD Herron is now stable.

“Today I can tell you that only seven out of the 87 patients there are COVID-19-positive,” she said.

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“That means 80 per cent of the residents have recovered and that was our goal. Our teams are mobilizing to save lives.”

Now McVey says her organization is looking ahead so that it is better prepared if there is a second wave of COVID-19.

She says improved expertise in infection prevention and control is needed to help control outbreaks of the virus.

“That is one of the recommendations that I’ve put forward to our board of directors and to government and we’re looking forward to hearing from government for answers on that.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Working conditions at Residence Herron and owner’s past under scrutiny

McVey says that a big part of the challenge in nursing homes is that they must be run like hospitals but feel like homes.

“We want to make sure the elderly are in the best possible condition to be able to face this virus, so that would be ideally what we want to put into place as we face the second wave.”