The Sisters of Sainte-Anne Congregation in Montreal’s Lachine borough are pleading for help from the local health authority as the spiritual group struggles with a coronavirus outbreak.
On April 21, they saw their first case of COVID-19 at their long term residence. Of the approximately 160 residents that live in the congregation, about 28 of them since contracted COVID-19 and six have died.
There are also 12 staff members home sick with the virus. Many others are off work because they’re either scared or are simply burned out, says Sister Celine Dupuis.
“Some are here for about 16 to 18 hours a day and they are just exhausted,” said Dupuis. “They would need a break but we don’t have anybody to replace them.”
The Sisters of Sainte-Anne are in a unique situation.
They’re considered a private facility with special status – of their 160 residents, only 24 are subsidized by the government, the rest are looked after by the congregation. That has made it difficult for them to get help from the local health authority, they say.
“We weren’t recognized as a certified long-term care facility and that sort of put us out of focus because the CIUSSS West Island had some government rules they had to follow,” said Jacques Sévigny, Sisters of Sainte Anne director-general.
The congregation says they’ve been doing their best to contain the virus, but they need help.
They’ve been asking the local health authority for extra staff and more testing, which they received on Wednesday.
“I think you have to be a bit more precise and look at the clearer picture in every situation and go over the rules to help people and overcome them dying even,” said Sévigny.
In an email to Global News, local health authority West Island CIUSSS said it has been in contact with the congregation since the beginning of the pandemic and it “offers its support to the facility, without differentiating between Résidences privées pour aînés (RPA)-type places and those of the religious community.”
“We are also testing all the residents and staff today,” said West Island CIUSSS President Lynne Mcvey.
She added that the health authority had been visiting the motherhouse of the Sisters of Sainte Anne since March 25 and also had multiple visits throughout the month of April and May.