On the Front Lines

by Susan Fisch (June 2020)

On March 16th of this year, as we went into lockdown and all non-essential businesses and services closed, most of us stayed home. But some few courageous individuals donned isolation gowns, masks, visors and gloves to work on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis. Among them, our very own Dale Langille, whose career as a financial advisor was put on hold. Rather than sit at home, he decided, with his family’s support and encouragement, to be useful where the need is greatest.

Dale had worked as a licensed nurse practitioner, but he never found an area that impassioned him. And the crazy shifts were hard on his young family, so he changed careers. Due to staffing shortages, all retired medical personnel have been invited to return and Dale renewed his license and started his training on March 30th.

He started working at Notre-Dame Hospital, but CHSLDs have been in greater need of help. So he was transferred to CHSLDs in Verdun and Ville Émard, and most recently Laval, working as a patient care attendant (PAB), because that is what they need. Hospitals have been closing down floors because they don’t have enough patients and they’ve been transferring their staff to CHSLDs. Even there, patients get moved around. Floors have been freed up due to the number of deaths, so floors have grouped patients as Covid or non-Covid.

Staffing shortages have been the main issue. A couple of times a day he would get called to work on days off, or to do extra shifts. Regular staff, especially in CHSLD’s, have been frustrated and exhausted with all they’ve had to deal with, and a number of them have been infected. Often, shifts have been short-staffed, either in PABs or nurses.

The army has been very helpful. They’ve learned quickly and have filled in where required.

The constant change in procedures has been really hard on everyone. What worked yesterday is no longer acceptable today. And tomorrow you will be doing things differently again. Over the past couple of months, procedures changed daily or every second day. The virus is evolving, as is our understanding of it, so you never know what procedures will be implemented when you come in to work. You have to be open-minded and ready for anything.

It has been difficult watching people die. It’s always been part of the job, but now, people are dying faster from the Covid. Which is hard when you’ve taken care of someone and have gotten to know them. But he has also seen people recover when they have not been expected to make it. That is always encouraging.

The difference between regular and temporary staff is, the temporary staff know that in a few weeks or a couple of months they will be back to their old jobs. Whereas for the regular staff, this is their job. It is easier for the temporary workers to keep up morale than for the regular staff, who will have to keep dealing with the same issues. Furthermore, they have to work alongside new people daily that they don’t know; some can do the job, others not so well.

Dale will continue to serve as long as the need is there. But he is looking forward to getting back to his own life. Now that Spring is here, there is much to be done around the house. He is in the process of selling his home and it needs to be prepared for potential buyers.

As the world slowly opens up again, staff shortages are easing, making the work easier to handle. Dale says that life will get back to normal outside of these centres way before it does on the inside. There is a lot of attention being placed on CHSLDs right now, so hopefully reforms are coming in.

Stay safe Dale and thank you from all of us for your service on the front lines.