Montreal is the Canadian hotspot for COVID-19, with over 28,772 cases and 3,437 deaths as of Friday. Around 80 per cent of the province’s deaths have occurred in seniors residences and long-term care homes. CP photo

How one Montreal long-term care home managed to keep COVID-19 away

Montreal is the Canadian hotspot for COVID-19

MONTREAL — The Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre long-term care home in southwest Montreal houses some of the patients most vulnerable to succumbing to a pandemic, including 18 who live on ventilators full time.

But as COVID-19 swept through Montreal’s nursing homes like a seemingly unstoppable force, the Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre achieved a rare feat: not a single positive case, much less any COVID-19 deaths.

Montreal is the Canadian hotspot for COVID-19, with over 28,772 cases and 3,437 deaths as of Friday. Around 80 per cent of the province’s deaths have occurred in seniors residences and long-term care homes.

Information obtained from Montreal’s five health boards suggest only a handful of facilities were able to avoid infection. In addition to Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre, those include two private facilities in the northern region, one small facility located within a hospital and one larger public care home.

A few others, including the Montreal Chinese Hospital, were able to stop the virus from spreading despite one or two cases.

Judith Morlese, a nurse-manager at the Pavillon Camille-Lefebvre, believes the facility’s success in keeping out COVID-19 was about more than just luck.

She says rapid action, dedicated infection-control teams and constant communication with staff were some of the keys to keeping the virus at bay, and they could provide a blueprint for other homes to follow if a second wave occurs.

Morlese said acting early, often ahead of the provincial government directives, was central to preventing infection.

The centre began developing a pandemic plan in January, before the first case in the province was declared, and made the decision early on to ban visitors and require staff members returning from overseas to stay home until testing showed they were not infected.

By February, meetings to discuss the pandemic were held daily.

Staff members were brought on board early and subjected to a thorough screening process every day before work. They were told to stay home and get tested at the first appearance of symptoms.

As cases began to crop up elsewhere, anxiety rose. Employees were met at the beginning of every shift and reminded to treat all patients, and each other, as if they were positive.

“We were nervous because we saw what was happening, and we felt bad for our partners in the network, we were scared,” Morlese said in an interview. ”So that’s the truth. We were really, really scared.”

Morlese says much of the home’s success came from diligently following the simple health directives regarding sanitizing equipment, hand-washing and wearing of protective equipment.

However, the facility also had two advantages that many of the others didn’t: namely, a skilled infection-control team and the ability to limit staff from working in multiple facilities.

The 135-bed facility is also linked to the Lachine Hospital and is part of the McGill University Health Centre, which proved an advantage because it meant better access to epidemiologists and other experts, according to Morlese.

France Nadon, an infection-control consultant at the home, said part-time workers with multiple jobs were asked not to work elsewhere if they wanted to keep working at the Pavillon.

Those who stayed were offered full-time work, which helped the home to avoid the staff shortages that authorities have cited as a weak point that allowed COVID-19 to enter in so many homes.

Infection-control specialists were on hand to answer employee questions and give refresher courses on the proper use of protective equipment, Nadon said.

Between 10 and 15 employees acquired COVID-19 outside of work, but none of them passed it on to patients — which Nadon says is a tribute to the vigilance they showed when it came to handwashing, disinfecting, and physical distancing.

“They respected the rules, they kept their masks on, they washed their hands and visors,” she said.

Henry Siu, a McMaster University associate professor who has studied long-term care preparedness, says researchers are still studying what factors translate into success in fighting the virus.

While much is unknown, he says the homes that were early adopters of measures such as stricter visitation policies and limiting workers to one facility may have had better outcomes.

In Ontario, he said, private homes seem to have fared worse, possibly because of aging buildings designed to house multiple residents in one room and inadequate space for distancing.

He said that while “luck probably does have a part to play” in which homes suffer major outbreaks, those that are proactive, have up-to-date infection-control protocols and strong leadership “are going to be much better equipped to deal with outbreaks.”

As health authorities warn of a potential second wave, Siu said he’s hopeful that Canadian long-term care homes will be better prepared.

But while they may have become more vigilant about distancing, hygiene and monitoring for symptoms, he said systemic issues, including poor home designs and low pay and poor working conditions that force workers to hold multiple jobs, are harder to solve.

Nadon and Morlese say aren’t celebrating their home’s success just yet.

Though they’re tired, they remain focused on the possibility of a second wave, which could come just as they also have to fight an onslaught of flu and other seasonal respiratory viruses.

Morlese says that while the worry isn’t gone, they feel more prepared this time.

“We’re less stressed because we know what we have to deal with,” she said.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr speaks. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

2020 Ponoka business awards
Ponoka chamber 2020 Business Award winners

The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce 2020 Business Awards were held… Continue reading

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owner found

Father and son found miniature horse while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ponoka FCSS’ Empty Bowls sells out

For the first time ever, Ponoka Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS’s)… Continue reading

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

(Black Press file photo)
Maskwacis RCMP welcomes new detachment commander

The Maskwacis RCMP detachment has a new detachment commander, Inspector Leanne MacMillan.… Continue reading

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

Most Read