Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Statement by Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg

September 23, 2020

 PDF version  of the statement

During a recent television interview, I drew some comparisons between COVID-19 and the flu, which continues to pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of our society and to people around the world. My brief comments were subsequently misinterpreted and were embraced by some individuals who mistakenly believe that COVID-19 does not deserve to be prevented or fought with every means at our disposal.  

I am distraught over the toll that the virus is taking on so many. I am also proud of the care and leadership provided by the team at CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. Well before the pandemic hit Montreal, our CIUSSS was treating COVID-19 as a grave and deadly threat. We were worried that we would be facing a situation similar to the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Hong Kong flu of 1968 during which no vaccines were initially available. 

Starting in late 2019, we began preparing staff for the challenges they would be facing and to familiarize them with the steps they would need to take in battling the virus. In January we organized a hospital-wide simulation and set up a robust and durable supply chain of personal protective equipment. Once the pandemic arrived, we took pro-active and aggressive protective measures to restrict the access of visitors and caregivers to our facilities, and we were the first healthcare network to insist that universal precautions including the wearing of masks be implemented in our facilities. We reorganized our operations across our CIUSSS setting up hot and warm zones and moved quickly to offer care via telehealth. As a result of these measures we did not have a COVID-19 outbreak at our hospital.

I should also point out that at every opportunity, we have advised the public about the need to take precautions against COVID-19., 

It is certainly true that differences do exist between the two illnesses. The current misunderstanding arises, however, from my statement comparing COVID-19 to the flu. Since the flu and its dire consequences have been with us for so long and can usually be prevented with a vaccine, many of us have wrongly come to believe that it is not a serious disease. Thus, some people have improperly chosen to think that I am equating the threat level of COVID-19 with that of the supposedly insubstantial flu rather than the pandemics mentioned above.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite any misimpressions that may exist in some corners of society, the fact is that the flu remains an extremely hazardous adversary. Both COVID-19 and the flu - I am not referring to the common cold – can be deadly enemies 

The real question is why the seasonal flu fails to arouse the same sense of urgency that is triggered by COVID-19. The single best answer is probably the fact that we already have a flu vaccine, while nothing similar has yet been developed for COVID-19. In all likelihood, if a flu vaccine did not exist, the effects of the disease—in terms of the rates of sickness and death—would be much more severe.

As I mentioned earlier, we also tend to downplay the seriousness of the flu because it has become such a familiar, seasonal feature of the fall and winter seasons. On the other hand, COVID-19 attacked us for the first time this year and we are still in the process of developing a comprehensive “portrait” of how the virus behaves. As a result, we erroneously see the flu as posing so weak a threat that we sometimes even complain about having “a touch of the flu”, when all we have is a bad cold or sore throat that can be shrugged off with relative ease. It goes without saying that in these cases we are misusing the word “flu” or “grippe” in French. Need proof of the flu’s deadly toll? Just visit the  website of Health Canada, which publicly reports the number of deaths due to the seasonal flu. Although the rate fluctuates from year to year, these numbers are highly significant; it is society that, for whatever reason, chooses to pay scant attention to them.

Some people point out that COVID-19 seems more dangerous than the flu, because of the medical problems that persist in the patient after the virus itself has been overcome. The fact is that the flu carries its own set of major risks. For example, a study by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States found that of the 80,000 adults hospitalized with the flu over a period of eight years, sudden and serious heart complications were common in one of every eight patients. Data presented to the American Stroke Association has also shown that having a flu-like illness increases the odds of having a stroke by nearly 40 percent over the next 15 days, with an elevated risk that persists for up to one year.

In addition, research submitted to the American Heart Association has found that flu vaccination in highrisk patients was associated with a 28 per cent reduced risk of heart attack, a 47 per cent reduced risk of a temporary blockage of blood to the brain, and a 73 per cent reduced risk of death. In other words, without the vaccine, the consequences to those high-risk patients would probably have been appalling.

One major benefit has emerged from this incident: It has given me an opportunity to remind the public how important it is for every person—especially those at high risk—to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu. Contracting both the flu and COVID-19 could be devastating, which represents one more reason for wearing masks, social distancing and washing our hands regularly. 

Until then, I urge you to continue to practice the usual precautions against COVID-19 and to make every effort to get vaccinated against the flu. Both of these diseases are very serious and both demand our ongoing vigilance.

Lawrence Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D.
President and CEO
CIUSSS West-Central Montreal

COVID‑19 information line

1-877-644‑4545 or 514-644-4545

It is recommended to all people with flu-like symptoms to call 1-877-644-4545 to have their situation assessed.

  • Due to the COVID-19 situation, if you wish to receive a medical assessment, you must visit the  RVSQ website or call Info-Santé at 811. A nurse will assess your situation and offer you an appointment via telehealth with a doctor. Once the doctor has completed his/her assessment by telephone or video, depending on the outcome, you may be asked to visit a designated clinic in person, if necessary.
  • From now on, the public is invited to call one of the following numbers: : 418-644-4545 for the Québec City region, 514 644-4545 for the Montreal region and 1 877 644-4545 elsewehere in Quebec.
  • For more information on coronavirus, please call 1 877 644-4545 or visit  Qué

COVID-19 Clinics

See the available COVID-19 clinics on the dedicated page.

Notice: Test Centres

CLSC Benny Farm, CLSC Metro, CLSC Parc-Extension and CLSC René-Cassin

Need a blood test or other samples tested?
All CIUSSS West-Central Montreal Test Centres joins forces with Clic Santé, an online appointment system.
For more information, visit the Test Centre webpage.

COVID-19 Prevention Team

Certain frontline services reopen

Integrated Screening and Prevention Services (ISPV)

The ISPV Clinic has reopened at CLSC Metro, by appointment only. Until further notice, it will operate from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. To make an appointment, call 514-934-0505, ext. 7399.

Youth clinics

The following youth clinics are reopening with a modified schedule:
CLSC Benny Farm: as of June 15, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
CLSC René-Cassin: as of July 8, Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
To make an appointment, call 514-484-7878, ext. 63393.

Breast cancer screening services resuming

As breast cancer screening services resume gradually and safely, changes have been made to services to reduce the risk of contamination.

More details at  Qué

Outremont Point of Service

As of August 3, all services at the Outremont Point of Service, including vaccinations for children (5 years old and under) and the administering of the whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women, will resume by appointment only.

As well, the medical clinic of the Village Santé Family Medicine Group will continue to operate at the Outremont Point of Service and will serve clients by appointment only.

To contact Outremont Point of Service, call 514-731-8531.

Subscribe to receive news from long-term care

As part of our commitment to connected care during these challenging times, we invite you to stay connected with us by receiving news from our long-term care centres directly in your inbox via email subscription.
If you want to keep up with the latest news from one or all of our long-term care centres, please visit:

Medical clinics and Family Medicine Group clinics (FMG)

Due to the COVID-19 situation, please note that no medical clinic, including Family Medicine Group clinics (FMG), will see patients for assessments on its premises. All medical assessments must be done via telehealth.

For any type of medical consultations—whether or not you have a family doctor—you must request an appointment via telehealth at the  RVSQ website or by calling Info-Santé at 811.

Your first step is to have your medical assessment done via teleheath. Depending on the outcome, you may be asked to visit a designated clinic in person.

Information for all obstetrical patients

See the dedicated page.


Temporary schedule for nursing and psychosocial services as of April 15

For more details, visit the dedicated page.


Test Centres - Modified hours

Starting Thursday, March 26 and continuing until further notice, the hours of operation will be modified at three of the four test centres in CLSC locations.

Please note that the Test Centre at the Jewish General Hospital modified its hours of operations, starting March 23, as shown below.

The new schedule for test centres, until further notice:

CLSC Metro (starting March 26)
1801 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Monday to Friday | 8:00 a.m. to noon

CLSC Park Extension (starting March 26)
7085 Hutchison St.
Monday to Friday | 8:00 a.m. to noon.

CLSC René Cassin (starting March 26)
Quartier Cavendish
5800 Cavendish Blvd.
Mackle Road entrance
Monday to Friday | 8:00 a.m. to noon

CLSC Benny Farm – No change
6484 Monkland Ave.
Monday to Friday | 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Jewish General Hospital (starting March 23)
3755 Côte-Sainte-Catherine Road, Room E-109
Monday to Friday | 7:00 to 3:00 p.m.
IMPORTANT: The Test Centre remains open during the pandemic from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 
In order to ensure you are registered for testing please arrive before 2:30 p.m. at E-109. The Test Center is closed on holidays and weekends.

New COVID-19 policies for personal protective equipment

Information is changing rapidly with regard to the COVID-19 and infection prevention strategies. Individual protective equipment policies are also changing to keep up with the new research findings. In this video, Dr. Yves Longtin, Chair of Infection Prevention and Control Unit, Jewish General Hospital, explains the latest updates for our front line clinical staff.

Update as of March 26, 2020: In Quebec, it is also recommended to use contact/airborne isolation precautions for patients with COVID-19 with severe disease who require hospitalization for COVID-19.

Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre

May 4, 2020

As a precaution in the face of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre is suspending all non-essential services until further notice.

Miriam Home and Services

Miriam Home and Services is suspending as of March 13, until further notice, all programs and services except residential services and in situations where the health and immediate safety of the client is at risk.

This includes Community Integration programs, Children and Adult Services, IVI, Supper program, work programs, and the vacation program.

Mental health and addictions

  • Temporary suspension of the child psychiatry day hospital
  • Temporary suspension of the adult day treatment program
  • Temporary suspension of group therapy
  • Temporary suspension of the volunteer program
  • Temporary suspension of the Personality Disorder Clinic
  • Drop-in for youth at CLSC Parc-Extension
  • Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT)

General Information

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