As Ste. Anne’s Hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue deals with a COVID-19 outbreak, a 97-year-old Second World War veteran living there is going public to thank front-line workers for their efforts, and to criticize management for missteps.
“You don’t win a war with softness, and we are in a war,” said Wolf Solkin, who knows what a war looks like. He fought for Canada in Europe during the Second World War.
At Ste. Anne’s Hospital these days, however, the enemy is COVID-19.
“There is a severe outbreak of COVID-19 among the patients and the staff, and they can’t seem to get control of it,” Solkin said.
On Nov. 30, Global News reported that 14 patients had COVID-19 at Ste. Anne’s, many of them veterans. As of Wednesday, the government counted nine cases among patients there, 11 among staff, and two deaths.
Solkin is also the head of the Patients Committee at Ste. Anne’s, and says he got a call Thursday morning from the son of another Second World War Veteran in his 90s.
“He called to tell me that his father died last night of COVID,” Solkin exclaimed angrily.
He said he does not blame the doctors, nurses and orderlies on the front lines for the facility’s COVID problem.
“They are angels without wings. They are devoted, they are dedicated, they are diligent,” Solkin said.
The veteran even thinks their courage fighting COVID-19 is comparable to that of a soldier like himself.
“Yes, in the sense that they are risking their lives voluntarily, and also the lives of their families. They don’t have to do that,” he said.
As is the case at health establishments all over the province, Solkin says Ste Anne’s is badly understaffed.
“You can get the same pay and better working conditions at Costco or Best Buy,” he said.
Solkin also accuses West Island CIUSSS management of making risky moves, like allowing visitors.
“I’ve recommended time and time again (to) cut off all visitors, and that includes my sweet wife,” he said.
Solkin claims certain workers are travelling back and forth from the Lakeshore Hospital, which is presently dealing with its own COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are here to die, we are not here to live. We know that. But we should die with dignity, and in our time,” Solkin said.
In an emailed statement, the West Island CIUSSS said it follows all the health ministry rules on visits, and that staff travel between institutions is only done in exceptional cases to avoid a breakdown in service, while taking all precautions.
“The West Island CIUSSS respects Québec Health Ministry guidelines on visits to its installations. Only humanitarian visits are allowed in establishments with outbreaks,” said West Island CIUSSS spokesperson Hélène Bergeron-Gamache.
“In other establishments, access is only permitted to registered caregivers.”
It acknowledged the staff shortage at Ste. Anne’s Hospital, pointing to the province-wide problem.
Solkin claims he’s written to West Island CIUSSS president Lynne McVey multiple times to express his concerns, and says she’s never responded.
“She’s far removed from the site with her minions, trying to control this pandemic with pandemonium,” he said.