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Quebec premier says hiring 10,000 orderlies ‘crucial’ to preventing 2nd coronavirus wave

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante speaks on city's reopening.

Quebec is looking to recruit 10,000 people to work as orderlies in its labour-strapped long-term care homes to stave off a second wave of the novel coronavirus.

Premier François Legault said there is an “urgency” to act and he is counting on the goodwill of Quebecers to enlist for what he described as a rewarding career caring for the elderly.

“This operation is crucial to prepare ourselves for a possible second wave,” he said.

The health crisis has thrust a spotlight on the challenges facing long-term care homes, including critical staffing shortages. Last week, a report from the military into those facilities noted other problems such as management of personal protective equipment and how hot zones related to COVID-19 are handled.

Legault said the challenges in long-term care facilities were known to previous governments but that he is accepting responsibility for his role in their management.

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“What we are going through right now, well, we have talked about it often, is a little embarrassing,” he said. “This has been a problem for several years.”

Legault Government health sector recruitment begins
Legault Government health sector recruitment begins

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The three-month course for aspiring orderlies will be available starting June 15. Those who enrol will be paid $760 per week and earn a starting annual salary of $49,000.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said the training includes 375 hours of learning and that the courses will be offered in 52 English and French educational centres. Students will also get hands-on experience at long-term care centres.

The hiring blitz comes after the premier had previously pleaded for medical specialists, health-care professionals and volunteers to work in those facilities amid the pandemic. The Canadian Armed Forces have also been lending a helping hand.

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Legault said permanently bolstering staff will help rectify working conditions and build stronger relationships with seniors and improve working conditions for health-care professionals in long-term care homes. He specifically called on young people to apply.

“If you’re ready to mobilize your strength, your energy, your humanity, if you want to make a real difference in the lives or our elderly, please join us,”said Legault. “We need you.”

It seems that Quebecers are answering the premier’s call.

By 3:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, 29,370 applications had been completed.

Government officials touted “excellent conversion rates,” explaining the page on the Quebec.ca website devoted to information on how to become an orderly had received 141,819 visits.  Of those, 83,646 clicked on the application form and 22 per cent of them ended up filling it out.

By 5:00 p.m. the number of applicants had jumped to 35,976.

Quebec continues to have the highest number of cases and deaths attributable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the country.

Since the health crisis began, Quebec has reported 51,593 cases with 239 new infections recorded on Tuesday. The province also saw 52 more fatalities on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 4,713.

There were 10 fewer patients being treated in hospital for COVID-19 for a total of 1,175.

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With files from the Canadian Press