Québec Covid-19 inquest uncovers nursing home deaths from abuse and neglect.

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition [EPC]

A report by Tu Thanh Ha that was published in the Globe and Mail on September 14 reports on testimony concerning the Herron nursing home in the suburb of Dorval in Montréal. The report indicates that Covid was cited as the cause of death at the Herron nursing home to hide the fact that residents were dying of dehydration, malnourishment and neglect, also known as elder abuse.

An auxiliary nurse (name is protected) reportedly stated in her testimony:

Starting March 13, 2020, a government directive banned visitors, including family caregivers, from entering nursing homes in Quebec. Many elderly residents with Alzheimer’s disease declined quickly when left by themselves. “I saw firsthand that they were dehydrated, in spite of my best efforts to keep them hydrated. I saw that they were malnourished,” the auxiliary nurse said.

In her testimony, and in a 55-page report that she submitted to the inquest, she said that many fatalities at Herron were misleadingly marked as suspected COVID-19 cases, when the deaths were a result of the chaotic handling of the crisis.

“I had the impression that they were blaming the virus because it would be easier to blame the virus than to acknowledge the hard truth that these people suffered from malnourishment and dehydration. I felt that it was a way to escape culpability,” she said.

Some of the deaths were clearly from neglect and elder abuse. The report states:

She found one of the first fatalities at Herron, Léon Barrette, whose body was already cold when she visited his room the morning of March 29. There were no physicians or registered nurses present, so a Herron administrator told her she had to handle the paperwork, which she had never done before.

The cause of death was indicated as possibly the new disease. “Everybody was ‘COVID-19 suspected,’ regardless of what symptoms they had,” she testified.

Mr. Barrette had been admitted March 27 and needed oxygen because of breathing problems. But there were no notes on his chart from between his admission and when the auxiliary found him dead. She testified that she saw no oxygen bottle in his room. His family members believe Herron’s staff had forgotten about him.

The testimony from the auxiliary nurse at the Herron nursing home proves that some of the deaths were not caused by Covid but rather neglect and level of care at this nursing home could only be described has inhumane elder abuse.

The data appeared to indicate that significant abuse was occurring in our nursing homes which prompted me to ask last year – How many Canadian seniors with Covid-19 were killed?

We need to rethink nursing homes and move to community based care.

For several years EPC has been advocating for changes to funding to enable home care. For many, home care is preferable because it enables people to stay in their homes and in their communities. People experience greater respect and dignity when they are cared for by people who know of them