COVID-19 was repeatedly cited as the cause of death at Heron Nursing Home to obscure the fact that dozens of elderly residents died of thirst, malnutrition and neglect, the Quebec coroner’s inquiry Tuesday was heard.
In an emotional testimony, an auxiliary nurse recalled how the facility in Montreal’s West Island was already running poorly before the crisis, how most of its staff left their positions when the coronavirus struck, and how the local health authority took high Took charge at the level- hands and in an inefficient manner.
She described discussions on whether to triage residents in such a way that those who were dying would not be fed. And she recalled harrowing scenes: a woman’s body was left unattended in a room she shared with her husband, and nurses quarreled in front of grieving family members.
Coroner launches investigation into COVID-19 deaths at Montreal-area care home
Auxiliary nurse testified at a public hearing for Coroner Gehen Kamel in 47 deaths in Heron, part of an investigation into high death rates at Quebec nursing homes during the first wave of the pandemic. Quebec is the only province to hold public hearings on COVID-19 fatalities in long-term care, opening a rare window into the crisis that resulted in the death of more than 4,000 of the province’s care-home residents in the spring of 2020. died.
A recurring theme in the assistant nurse’s testimony was the lack of humanity for the dying residents and their relatives. It seems that someone forgot in his room and died of thirst. Another family received misleading information while an elderly resident was dying.
The name of the Auxiliary Nurse cannot be disclosed due to restrictions on publication.
From March 13, 2020, a government directive banned visitors, including family caregivers, from entering nursing homes in Quebec. Many elderly residents with Alzheimer’s disease rapidly decline by self-quarantine. “I noticed the first time that despite my best efforts to keep them hydrated, they were dehydrated. I noticed they were malnourished,” said the assistant nurse.
In her testimony, and in a 55-page report she submitted for investigation, she said that many of the deaths in Heron were deceptively marked as suspected COVID-19 cases, when the deaths were in the chaos of the crisis. Management was the result.
“I had the impression that they were blaming the virus because it would be easier to blame the virus than to accept the harsh truth that these people were suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. I thought it was a way to avoid blame,” she told interrogation.
Inquiries heard that Heron was short-staffed, and that it had turned into a placement agency two months before the pandemic. The director of nursing care was not changed after leaving his job in early 2020.
Athanasios Pappas, the first resident to test positive for the virus, died on March 27, 2020. The next day, the assistant nurse said, one of the house’s staff came to her floor “in a panic” and said the virus was in the building. “I realized that everyone who works has a right to know that he or she is in the building. So I called everyone in the nursing station and I told them and this group of agency [orderlies] Basically left en masse,” said the assistant nurse.
He tried, unsuccessfully, to talk them out about leaving, she said. That afternoon, she gave an orderly a ride home, who told her, “I don’t think I’m coming back tomorrow.”
When she came to work on March 29, most of the employees were missing. Registered nurses left early. One said he had fever. Another was asked by the managers to go and get tested as he had taken care of a patient who was found to be infected.
The assistant nurse said she and two orderlies were left to care for a floor with 60 residents. He also had to help the orderly while distributing the medicine. “I helped feed, I helped with serving trays, I helped people wash. I was running around like a fool.”
She found her first death in Heron, Leon Barrett, whose body was already cold when she went to her room on the morning of March 29. There were no doctors or registered nurses present, so a Heron administrator told her he had to handle the paperwork. which he had never done before.
The cause of death was probably given as a new disease. “Everyone was a ‘COVID-19 suspect,’ regardless of their symptoms,” she testified.
Mr Barrett was admitted on 27 March and needed oxygen due to shortness of breath. But there were no notes on her chart from the middle of her entry and when the assistant found her dead. He testified that he did not see the oxygen bottle in his room. Members of her family believe that Heron’s staff forgot about her.
The day shift ended at 3:30 pm and the orders went, “knowing full well that there was no one in his place,” said the assistant nurse. He realized that he had to stop, as no one else but the orderly showed up to work on his floor.
The rest of the kitchen staff delivered the food, but did not help in serving the tray for fear of the virus.
That evening a resident had diarrhea twice. “We couldn’t get over him sooner, he slipped in and he fell twice. So here we have a 102-year-old man who lives a life of pride, a life of dignity. And he’s lying in his own stool, ’ she said tearfully. She left at 8 in the morning after working 18 hours.
That evening, the local health authority, known by the abbreviation CIUSSS ODIM, learned of the crisis and said it would take over the facility from owner Samantha Chauveri.
The Auxiliary Nurse said that things have not improved under CIUSSS. Staffing was uneven and it was not clear who was in charge.
He and his mother were close to two residents who died on 6 April, Albert Arpin and Ruth Welland.
The auxiliary nurse’s mother had spoken to Ms. Welland’s daughter, who said that Tina Petinichi, an administrator, had assured her that Ms. Wayland was fine and was feeding herself with Boost, a nutritional drink. In fact, heard at the interrogation, Ms. Welland died in an agitated state, screaming and trying to pull out her intravenous needle.
Mr. Arpin also got spoiled that weekend. The assistant nurse called her daughters to say goodbye to her. When they arrived, the assistant nurse said, someone from CIUSSS yelled at one of the daughters and told her she was not allowed in the facility and was contaminating the space.
Another CIUSSS employee then argued with her colleague that the daughters should be able to move in. “In the elevator… Susan looked at me, shook her head and remarked that it was a zoo,” said the assistant nurse, the daughter who was yelled at.
Oxygen tanks were in short supply, and the assistant nurse said they had to fight “tooth and nail” to reduce their final moments of oxygen and morphine to Ms Wayland and Arpin.
She said she often “bowed heads” with the CIUSSS nursing supervisor when she tried to clean up and clean the bodies of deceased residents. In one case, she said, the supervisor reprimanded her for reporting that a dead resident had been left in vomit. “It takes five minutes for someone to clean up and show respect,” said the assistant nurse.
In another case, in a room shared by a married couple, the wife died and was left on her bed for a day. Husband had Alzheimer’s. Every few hours, he checked on his wife and found that she had died. “It was extremely harsh,” said the assistant nurse.
She said there were so few staff members left that she and Ms Chauveri, the owner, discussed at one point whether to feed only healthy residents while keeping the rest hydrated. “With such a skeleton crew… some of them were not getting food. So it was my fear at the moment that if we didn’t do the building trio, we would lose the whole building.”
Ms Chauveri said she would talk to the kitchen staff, but ultimately did not pursue the idea, the assistant nurse testified.
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