Concern after elderly St. Catharines man narrowly misses out on COVID-19 vaccination

Johnson Mont Johnson Mont. Photo credit: Cheryl Mont

The daughter of an 82-year-old St. Catharines resident and veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy has some lingering concerns after her father, Johnson Mont, narrowly missed out on receiving a COVID-19 vaccination this past January.

As a resident of The Royal Henley Retirement Community in St. Catharines since 2017, Mont could have met eligibility to receive the potentially life-saving vaccine during a scheduled clinic at the residence on Jan. 27.

But after undergoing vascular bypass surgery last year, Mont ended up at Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre on Dec. 22, 2020.

On Christmas night, a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on the second floor of Hotel Dieu Shaver, in unit two west, where Mont was staying as an in-patient. He is still at the rehabilitation centre, which is no longer in outbreak.

“He (is) the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and he was surrounded by COVID-19,” said daughter Cheryl Mont.

“He’s very frail and in very poor health and I did not think his odds of surviving were very good,” she said.

Despite living in Toronto without a car, Mont was determined to get her father transported to The Royal Henley, only to be informed on Jan. 26 that he wouldn’t be accommodated with Shaver in an outbreak.

“(The Royal Henley) did not consider or inquire as to his interest in the vaccine, and they did not include him on their list,” Mont said, alleging poor communication placed her father in limbo.

In an emailed response, Lee Mooney, Henley’s executive director, declined to discuss Mont’s situation “out of concern for confidentiality,” but said it was their understanding that “residents who are not living with us at the time of the vaccination clinic will have an opportunity to be vaccinated upon their return, at the location where they currently reside, or at a ‘round up’ clinic held specifically for seniors who missed receiving their vaccine.”

Cheryl began reaching out to politicians on Jan. 26, including St. Catharines NDP MPP, Jennie Stevens, who said her office has advocated on behalf of other residents facing similar issues.

“If family members of people that are in these long-term situations don’t reach out to our office and we don’t amplify their voices, then really nobody will know, and it’s sad,” Stevens said.

Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) spokesperson, Courtney Westerhof, said in an email that “vaccine supply has not been plentiful” and the province dictates how vaccines are to be used.

Westerhof said public health has been diligent in ensuring their limited supply only reaches priority groups set out by the province, and is in the process of administering the second doses of vaccine in long-term-care and high-risk retirement homes. As of Feb. 22, NRPH had administered 9,251 doses.

Only a day after Mont brought attention to her father’s situation, the elder Mont received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Shaver, and received a second dose on Feb. 17.

With signed consent from Johnson Mont to disclose his personal health information, Hotel Dieu Shaver spokesperson, Dean Lorenz, said Shaver’s clinical team had been inquiring about vaccines for certain patients in their care who were not included in the long-term-care and retirement homes vaccination program.

According to Shaver’s chief nursing officer, Jennifer Hansen, nursing manager, Jody Gowling, reached out to public health to see what could be done about Mont’s predicament.

Hansen said with the assistance of public health, seven patients, including Mont, ended up being vaccinated. “It was a very responsive team effort,” she said.

For Mont, the whole situation causes her to wonder if there are others missing out, who would otherwise be eligible if not for circumstances like her father’s.

“It leaves me worried that there are other vulnerable seniors who are not getting the vaccine that they have been allocated because there is nobody to advocate for them.”