(Dr. Dominique Ouellet-Gagnon of the Blanc-Sablon hospital and Constance Monger, CISSS Territory Coordinator for the Lower North Shore - Photo screen shot taken by Abbygail Wellman from CISSS press briefing)
LOCAL NEWS - APRIL 9, 2020: LOWER NORTH SHORE – CISSS PRESS BRIEF COVERAGE
A press briefing was held this afternoon by the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Côte-Nord (CISSS de la Côte-Nord) regarding the COVID-19 situation on the North Shore and the Lower North Shore. The press briefing was led by Ms. Dyane Benoît, Acting Assistant Executive Director, Ms. Constance Monger, Territory Coordinator for the Lower North Shore, and Dr. Dominique Ouellet-Gagnon of the Blanc-Sablon hospital.
With Easter weekend approaching, the CISSS would like to remind the population to continue to follow the health guidelines that have been set; no gathering in large groups outside of immediate family within the home unit, to continue to practice social distancing and for those who have been isolating to continue to do so for your protection. Testing areas are ready in each Lower North Shore community located at your local CLSC or the hospital in Blanc-Sablon at the ambulance garage. A reminder was also given that anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms to first call 1-877-644-4545 (LOCAL 1-418-644-4545), you will then be directed on what to do. Users are reminded to first call your local health centre before coming in to the clinics or hospital to have your needs addressed. Non-essential businesses are being asked to continue being closed until May 4th for the time being.
Regarding the phone calls recently placed to seniors on the Lower North Shore by the local nurses asking what level of care they would want to receive should they become ill with COVID-19, Ms. Constance Monger, Territory Coordinator for the Lower North Shore, stated that the objective was not to worry the population. The purpose was to receive more information on the needs of the population, as some may choose to be hospitalized and others may wish to remain in their communities, to be aware of what services are available. All residents of the Lower North Shore who are critically ill will be medevacked to Quebec City, there will be no choice of going to the hospitals in Blanc-Sablon or Sept-Iles due to this being the staging point for emergency care of COVID-19 for our region. She added that it is important that the seniors be made aware of this.
CFBS mentioned that the CISSS stated in the media that all sick patients would have the option of being transported and that all would receive care, so then what exactly what was the purpose to question the elderly population and what was the CISSS intending to do with the numbers and info from that survey? Dr. Dominique Ouellet-Gagnon said that those who are ill would receive care and could be transported if they choose, but that it is important that everyone be aware that there will be no escorts allowed on the medivac transfers, no one would be allowed to have a family member by their side while sick in Quebec at the hospital. The seniors need to be aware of this information in order to make their decisions and discussions need to take place between the seniors and their families about this.
CJAS Journalist Rachel Bilodeau pressed further, asking who had given the mandate to call the seniors on the Lower North Shore with these questions and also if an apology would be issued, to which Ms. Monger stated that it was a team decision to call the seniors, apologies are being made to those affected by the previous contacts.
CJTB Journalist Mickael Lambert asked why do this survey only on the Lower North Shore if all the patients on the Lower North Shore will need to be transport to Quebec alone? Ms. Monger said that we don't have quite the same reality as everywhere else. If someone in Tête-à-la-Baleine gets very sick in the middle of the night, we can't take him out until the next morning and only if the weather permits. Dr. Ouellet added that it is even more relevant to discuss it on the Lower North Shore since it is a predominantly English-speaking population and there are many people who are reluctant to go to Quebec, alone. We are talking about not being well understood even if there are interpreters available and the distance is very great. Mr. Lambert of CJTB also inquired on if the calls are necessary to make and if they will restart the process again, to which it was answered by Dr. Dominique Ouellet-Gagnon that the calls were stopped to readjust the process of the questions, that it was well received by some and not so well received by others.
I had asked if there should be a major COVID-outbreak on the Lower North Shore, what is the maximum number of medevac planes that the CISSS de la Côte-Nord is considering to acquire to transport patients, since it was recently revealed in the media that the CISSS has already repatriated another medivac plane for the region now stationed in Sept-Iles. Ms. Dyane Benoît and Ms. Constance Monger gave information that there is 1 medevac plane currently stationed in Blanc-Sablon available along with the repatriated plane with Skyjet that is now located at Sept-Iles. The CISSS de la Côte-Nord also has access to emergency services from Évacuations aéromédicales du Québec (EVAC) and that there would also be other transportation that could be given by consequence as well if there should be a major pandemic, but that thankfully there is no cases at this time.
I inquired on what extra materials in preparation for COVID-19 has been sent to the clinics of the Lower North Shore as well as the hospital in Blanc-Sablon, and if there could be a possibility of receiving another ventilator on the Lower North Shore. It was stated by Ms. Constance Monger that the CISSS had ordered more ventilators for the North Shore territory. But added that it is important to note that the Lower North Shore’s patients will be mostly transferred by medevac, so at this time there is no need for extra ventilators on the Lower North Shore.
I also specifically asked if there has been any information yet regarding venues on the Lower North shore serving as emergency places to house the sick (but not critical) should the health establishment not have enough beds in the hospital or clinics and if there was information on deploying the Canadian Rangers on the Lower North Shore. Ms. Constance Monger said that at this time there is no plan to have a separate venue for the general population who may become ill with mild symptoms of COVID-19 to isolate, at this time they are only focusing on separating the elderly in care facilities should the need be there. Regarding the Rangers, it was requested by both the MRC Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent and the CISSS de la Côte-Nord for deployment, the CISSS was seeking help to install the tents for testing but no positive answer has been given so far.
I had also pressed for information on the procedure process for those who are tested for COVID-19 and the exact level of community awareness given by the health establishment to those in the community who have been in contact with a probable COVID case. Ms. Monger stated that all who are tested are given clear directives to go on 14 day isolation as well as to their family members who were in contact. Also, an awareness sheet called “Isolation at Home” is given to each person, they also have contact with their local health centre for any questions. CFBS still is seeking information specifically on if others in contact with a probable case are made aware to isolate as well, or if this is reserved for confirmed cases only.
More to come, CFBS will continue to follow the updates from the CISSS de la Côte-Nord and bring you the info as it unfolds.