Horrors revealed at virus-hit nursing home

MONTREAL (AFP) – Elderly residents left soiled and unfed after their caregivers fled the premises, 31 deaths in the space of a few weeks: a nursing home in Montreal has become the symbol of the terrible toll coronavirus is taking in Canada’s long-term care homes.

The bleak situation discovered at the Residence Herron, in the Montreal suburb of Dorval, has triggered an investigation for gross negligence and a national reckoning about the conditions in long-term care homes which account for half the country’s more than 1,250 COVID-19 deaths.

“I was sick to my stomach, I was really sick to my stomach,” Moira Davis, whose father Stanley Pinnell died at the Herron facility on April 8, told AFP.

“All of a sudden these questions started flying through my head, ‘What could we have done differently? Why did nobody tell us?… Why, why, why?’”

Called to the rescue after most of the staff deserted the facility, health authorities found residents dehydrated, unfed for days and lying listless in bed, some covered in excrement.

Flowers laid outside Residence Herron private nursing home in Dorval, west of Montreal. PHOTO: AFP

Others had fallen to the floor. Two deaths had gone unnoticed for several days.

At least five of the 31 recent deaths at the home have been officially attributed to the virus, with the others still being investigated by a coroner.

From her home in Creighton, Saskatchewan, Davis said she became concerned about her 86-year-old father, who is believed to have contracted coronavirus a week before his death, as he sounded weaker and weaker on the phone each time they spoke.

Davis said Residence Herron is a “poster child for what is wrong in our senior health care” – but she is also certain it is not unique.

“There are other homes, I am sure, in every country of the world, where families have experienced a similar situation.”

“It scares me, it terrifies me to think that I am 60 years of age, and I may someday end up in one of these homes.”

In announcing the fatalities this week, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said it appeared to be a case of “gross negligence”: just two nurses had been left to care for 130 elderly residents.

Further fuelling public outrage, Canadian media also revealed that the home’s owner had once been convicted of drug trafficking, fraud and tax evasion.