By Gordon Lambie
As of last Friday, anyone 13 years of age or older looking to visit a healthcare establishment in the province of Quebec or serve as a caregiver needs to present their vaccine passport or be denied entry. This new regulation includes hospitals, but also CLSCs, physical rehabilitation centres, long-term care facilities, group homes, and private seniors’ residences.
Those seeking medical attention for themselves will not be held to the new rule, nor will anyone accompanying a child 14 years of age or younger, a person who is giving birth, or a person who cannot consent to care on their own behalf. Exceptions are also granted to those visiting someone at the end of their life; the parent or guardian of a child in a rehabilitation center for young people with adjustment difficulties as well as for any person having visitation rights ordered by a decision rendered by the Court of Quebec; peace officers or firefighters in the operation of their duties; and health and social services workers working in that facility.
These measures were maintained despite the rescheduling of mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers to Nov. 15.
In the Eastern Townships, The CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS warned on Friday that despite the extra time for workers to meet the vaccination deadline, the local system is facing “unprecedented” staffing challenges resulting in cuts to essential services. Among these is the closure of obstetrics services in the Granit region.
“The postponement of the decree allows us to recover staff and hope that at least 300 employees will have completed their vaccination and will be with us after November 15,” said Yann Belzile, the director of human resources for the regional healthcare establishment. “For reference, since the announcement of the compulsory vaccination decree, approximately 600 employees have received a first dose.”
Underlining the fragility of working conditions in the region, the CIUSSS and its CEO, Stéphane Tremblay, were served legal notice by the care professionals’ union over the weekend calling for an end to mandatory overtime by that same November 15 deadline.
Late last week Health Minister Christian Dubé also announced changes to the restrictions placed on bars and restaurants, including a removal of the capacity caps and permission to move tables to a distance of one metre apart. Tables that are closer than one metre will need to be separated by a physical divider. The maximum number of people allowed at a single table was also increased to ten or three households.
These changes will come into effect November 1.
The Province of Quebec reported 676 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, followed by 679 on Saturday and 532 on Sunday. This increases the total number of infections since the start of the pandemic in the province to 419,719.
There were 13 new Covid-related deaths recorded over the weekend, bringing the total to 11,444.
As of Sunday there were 303 hospitalizations as a result of the virus across Quebec, 76 of which were in intensive care. These figures are similar to where they were on Thursday.
Friday marked the last major update in the Eastern Townships, at which point the region recorded 272 active cases. That number marked an increase from the previous day’s 261, and included 78 cases in Sherbrooke, 74 in the Haute-Yamaska, 23 in des Sources, 21 in Granit,19 in the Val Saint- François, 18 in Memphremagog, 16 in Coaticook, 15 in the Pommeraie, seven in the Haute-Saint- François, and two not linked to a particular area.
There were two new deaths due to the virus over the period from last Tuesday to Friday, both of which were in unnamed private seniors’ residences.
As of Friday there were 12 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the region, two of whom were in intensive care.
Local vaccination rates have reached 86.1 per cent for a first dose and 83.5 per cent for a second, with 92.6 per cent of local healthcare workers having received two doses of a vaccine. Despite that high percentage, there were still 1,433 healthcare workers in the region not considered adequately vaccinated as of October 11.
Across the province 90 per cent of those 12 and up have received a first dose and 86 per cent have received a second, with a total of 22,446 healthcare workers not adequately vaccinated.