Why was/is it necessary to isolate the elderly in Residences and Care/Nursing Homes?
On May 15th 2020, I was admitted to the MUHC (McGill University Health Center) in Montreal with Covid-19 symptoms. I was put into a room in the ER awaiting the blood test results, and when diagnosed with Covid-19, the resident doctor informed me that I could return home and isolate myself. There was, he insisted, no need for me to remain in hospital.
My temperature was quite high, I had diarrhea, and my immune system was severely compromised because I had been receiving chemotherapy since April 2020 and I had been on a course of radiotherapy from January to March 2020. Yet, this doctor, who was consulting with me via phone (unlike the nurses and the technicians) was annoyed when I said that I wanted to stay in the hospital, just in case a problem developed.
Despite his repeated declarations that I would be perfectly alright isolating at home (reminescent of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s returning Covid-19 infected patients to their homes), I was transfered to a Covid ward at the MUHC and the nurses in ER who entered my room wore PPE, including face masks and gloves, but no face shields. They touched me, took blood, and helped me in and out of bed when I needed to go to the toilet, etc. I myself wore a face mask and I was in a hospital gown.
As my conditition worsened, I was then transfered to the ICU where. once again, I was attended to by nurses in PPE and I wore my face mask. When these nurses left my room, they removed their PPE equipment; they put their gowns in the garbage can inside my room, washed their hand at the sink near the door, and returned to their duties.
They did not take a shower or change their clothes or stand 6 feet from one another at the Nurse’s station. Sometimes, I saw them standing close together, talking and laughing. They even touched each other on the arms or shoulders.
Now, my question is: why was it impossible for family members who had less contact with infected or potentially infected people to see their elderly relatives? How were they any more dangerous than the nurses, technicians, orderlies, auxiliary nurses, janitors, physiotherapists, etc. that were routinely going in and out of the rooms of patients?
The true danger in the Residences, Nursing Homes, Care centers, etc. was not between visitors and their families or friends, it was between infected patients being in close proximity to non-infected patients, thus transfering the virus. No-one who desperately wanted to visit their loved ones would have objected to wearing or even providing their own PPE equipment in order to protect these vulnerable people.
These visitors could have been limited to one patient, and they could have been cautioned on how to avoid doing anything dangerous. The risk of infection would have been very small, especially with PPE equipment available, but the avoidance of the fear, loneliness, and mental anguish on the parts of both patients and their friends and family would have been worth the risk.
I was in the MUHC for over one month and in a Rehabilitation Center for another month after that. During that time, I saw dozens of people and to the best of my knowledge, I neither contracted another variant of the virus or transfered Covid-19 to them. In fact, in the Rehabilitation center, some patients were allowed visitors (in PPE gear) and it was unknown whether either the patients or the visitors had contracted the virus between tests.
So, the big question here is: Why was/is it necessary to isolate the elderly in Residences and Care/Nursing Homes?
Perhaps when we get the answer to that question, we can understand why our elderly were subjected to so much mental anguish and why so many of them died alone and afraid. Like my mother and father did in April 2020 and May 2020, respectively.
Unless we demand an answer to that question from our governments (both federal and provincial) as well as from our Health policy makers, if there is another wave of Covid infection, the same measures will be taken, and more deaths and mental health issues will occur.