'Happening all over again': investigation into Montreal care home after allegations of inadequate conditions

On Saturday night, when Mary Dunlop checked on her 88-year-old mother through the camera installed in her room, she was disturbed by what she saw.

She said her mother, who lives in a long-term care home, was lying flat on her back, her mattress positioned parallel to the floor instead of at the usual 45-degree angle.

Olga Anastassiadis suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Dunlop explained, which requires her to lie at an angle to prevent regurgitation during sleep.

"If I wouldn't have seen it through the camera, anything could have happened to her. She could have regurgitated, asphyxiated. She didn't stand a chance in that position," Dunlop told CTV News.

Anastassiadis lives at the CHSLD Vigi Reine-Elizabeth, a long-term care facility in Montreal's Cote-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grace (CDN-NDG) borough.The residence is under investigation by the provincial government after family members like Dunlop reported inadequate conditions. 

According to Dunlop, the Reine-Elizabeth staff that usually care for her mother are aware of her issues with GERD -- but she said the orderlies were shifted around recently, causing this detail to slip through the cracks.

"Three orderlies who had been working on our floor for several years were transferred to other floors, where they don't know the residents and the residents don't know them," she said.

Dunlop believes staff and residents weren't adequately prepared for the sudden change.

"I'm not talking about mal intent or anybody doing anything on purpose. But when you remove people who have cared for the same residents for months or years, you suddenly take them away and replace them with people who don't know them and who are not being supervised, also, by more experienced staff. That's really what scares me."

CTV News was unable to verify these claims with Vigi Sante, a chain of 15 CHSLDs across Quebec, who did not respond to a request for comment.

HEALTH MINISTRY INVESTIGATING

Whispers around staffing issues at Reine-Elizabeth are nothing new: residents and their family members have complained about conditions at the facility in the past, and the Quebec government is conducting an official investigation into the matter.

"[We are] closely monitoring the situation in the living environments. An administrative investigation has been requested for the CHSLD Vigi Reine-Élizabeth following complaints and the management of outbreaks of COVID-19," reads a statement from the office of Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors and caregivers.

In November of 2021, the residence came under the spotlight after it was hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, leading some families to come forward with allegations of inadequate care.

Dunlop says that while the situation has improved since then, conditions are deteriorating once again.

She recalled how, just last week, her mother was soiled for hours while waiting for assistance.

"They told me that they were missing staff, they were very low on staff. They only had two orderlies on the floor and they were doing the best that they could do," she said. "So there were residents that were waiting still at seven o'clock, eight o'clock, nine o'clock, for people to come to attend to them."

"Everything that we were complaining about before is happening all over again."

The allegations against Vigi Reine-Elizabeth are just a few in a long list of controversies surrounding Quebec's long-term care homes.

CHSLD Herron made international headlines in the Spring of 2020 after dozens of residents died under horrific conditions during the pandemic's first wave.

Although there's been a coroner's inquiry into the tragedy, the Coalition Avenier Quebec (CAQ) government voted down a proposal to conduct a public inquiry in April. 

With files from CTV's Max Harrold.  

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