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Château Westmount staff receive National Assembly Medal of Honour for work during pandemic

Click to play video: 'Château Westmount receives medal of honour for fight against COVID-19' Château Westmount receives medal of honour for fight against COVID-19
WATCH: Staff at CHSLD Château Westmount pride themselves on their handling of the pandemic at the long-term care residence. As Global’s Olivia O'Malley reports, their dedication and resilience caught the attention of the government – Oct 22, 2021

Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone awarded the National Assembly Medal of Honour to staff at CHSLD Château Westmount on Friday morning. The long-term care home is being recognized for reporting no COVID-19 cases in the first wave of the pandemic.

“In recognition of your dedication, your determination…compassion and your caring for our seniors,” Maccarone told the CHSLD staff, “it’s an honour for me to present you with this medal.”

According to the National Assembly, The Medal of Honour is awarded “to public figures from all walks of life who, through their career, their work or their social commitment, have earned the recognition of the Members of the National Assembly and the people of Québec.”

General Director and Nursing Director Zara Pilian held back tears accepting the award.

“It was a big surprise. It was very emotional, but for me, the staff deserves this recognition,” she said.

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Read more: No criminal charges to be laid against CHSLD Herron over COVID-19 deaths

While cases climbed in other long-term care homes across the province, Château Westmount staff say keeping all 112 residents healthy was stressful.

“I was on my floor alone, and I’m taking care of 29 people,” said nurse Mary Rose Escalante.

Eventually in the second wave, their stronghold fell. Fifteen residents died.

“There’s really, really no way to tell how it got in. But we had to control it once it was in, and that was our main focus,” said nursing director Maria Kandarjian.

During the 49-day outbreak, staff refused to abandon the residents. They took on double and triple shifts, worked seven days a week and gladly accepted overtime.

“They needed us more than anything else. So that’s what motivated every single one to stay. And that’s what we did,” said Kandarjian.

Read more: Quebec COVID-19 long-haulers call for treatment and support

Resident Hassan Lari says the Château Westmount staff went above and beyond to accommodate the seniors.

“The rooms was clean and the distance was happening and each residents, they had their own space and they had their own activity,” said Lari.

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Lari now refers to the staff as his angels because “they put their heart for the residents, they crying with the residents and they laugh with the residents.”

After experiencing the dark and hard days of the pandemic together, staff and residents say they are a real family. The medal validates their ongoing respect and commitment to each other.

“We’re very happy and we’re very honoured,” said Escalante.

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