Demonstrators once again gathered before Au Chateau senior’s home, at 100 Michaud Street in Sturgeon Falls. They want the home to revise its visitation policy, or revoke it completely, so that those without proof of vaccination against Covid can enter the building and reunite with family.
Essentially, those demonstrating want Au Chateau to open its doors to everyone, even those without proof of vaccination. This would allow people to continue to care for family members in the home, and help alleviate the workload of facility staff.
The provincial government has left vaccination policy in the hands of individual homes, which means Au Chateau is allowed to set it’s own visitation policy. However, demonstrators feel that policy is outdated, out of touch, and lacking nuance. For instance, one demonstrator mentioned that the option to pass a rapid test for Covid before entering—with a mask—was not an option. One must show proof of full vaccination before entering those doors.
The home is run by a governing board, and those gathered today want the board to call an emergency meeting to discuss rescinding or altering the policy. Last week, demonstrators carried signs before the home, hoping to put pressure on the board which was meeting the following day. However, the board declined to alter its visitation policy. The vote was tied, but it was not enough to make a change.
Rejean Venne listened in on that board meeting via telephone, as he was partly responsible for getting the motion to reconsider the visitation policy on the board’s agenda. He noted today that when the motion was raised, there was hardly any discussion on the topic. It went to a vote, and the status quo remained.
“It’s a pressing issue,” Venne said, “which is why we want the board to have an emergency meeting solely to address this.” He noted that in part, what makes it so pressing, is the “staffing issue” the home is experiencing, as like many senior long term care homes, there are not enough staff to offer care to patients, an issue brought into much sharper relief once Covid appeared.
“That’s our next step,” he said, “to get them back to the table to address this,” and work toward a solution. “Maybe it’s not the same resolution as presented at the last meeting, maybe it’s some other sort of compromise, but come back to the table. They can do that anytime.”
Venne doesn’t have family in the care home, although many gathered did. One person mentioned that because of the policy, he was only able to visit with his mother outside, which meant a Christmas visit “in the parking lot.”
Jamie Desroches’ sister has Huntington’s, and she is a resident of the home. She’s in her late thirties, but the disease is “debilitating” and she requires supports. Desroches is her care-giver and has the power to make decisions for her sister, but the inability to enter the building has made providing care a challenge.
“I’m the only one who can really communicate with her anymore,” as others can make her nervous and uncomfortable. “I’m able to connect with her in a way that can do her a lot of good,” she said, and because of this, she wants greater access to visit. Desroches’ sister can’t just pick up a phone and call, as she has trouble speaking. She can text, but that is difficult too. In person visits are the best way for the sisters to communicate, Desroches said.
She is able to pick up her sister and take her out, as there is no restriction on her leaving, however, Desroches is unable to go in the building herself without showing proof of vaccination. “This is the only home that’s kept it,” she said, referring to the need to show proof you’ve received a vaccine.
Desroches does not blame Au Chateau’s staff, she sees them as hardworking and fair, following the rules of the administration. Lise Rheault, shared the view, adding that if anything, staff are overworked due mostly to understaffing. Her mother is in the home, and she visits weekly. She noted that her mother, who suffers from advanced dementia, will “go weeks without bathing,” because there isn’t enough support to help her out.
Which is why demonstrators gathered once again before Au Chateau. They want greater access to family members to help provide care within a field that is by their account, understaffed and overworked. They want to reunite with loved ones and return to a caregiving role.
The next steps, Venne explained, will be to ask the board to hold another meeting to discuss the visitation policy, and if that does not occur, he will reach out to the municipal government for help. “Some precautions are needed,” Venne added. “We’re not asking for a free-for-all with no masks and no testing,” he said, “we want to see something sensible” instituted to allow family members to help each other.
If not, the protests will continue.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.