Montreal care home doctor worried about lack of staff as COVID-19 hit, coroner hears

A doctor who treated residents of a Montreal-area care home where dozens of patients died of COVID-19 says she was concerned about the lack of staff and personal protective equipment at the facility as infections began to mount.

Dr. Orly Hermon was one of three doctors who had Residence Herron residents as patients.

Testifying today at a coroner's inquiry into the pandemic response at elder care homes, she said she was concerned as the facility began to declare positive cases but had trouble filling staff rosters and didn't have any PPE on hand.

Hermon says the facility in Dorval, Que., didn't have a nursing director to co-ordinate the response, and when she reached out to the local health authority, she was told they were also experiencing shortages of workers and PPE.

As Herron's manager fell ill with COVID-19 and the facility's owner scrambled to find staff to care for patients, Hermon says she sent an urgent text to a health authority doctor asking for help.

While Hermon says she was told the health authority would be placing the facility under trusteeship as of March 29, the process was in fact more drawn out.

Hermon says the owner of the facility and regional health officials both described a lack of co-ordination and co-operation, which improved after the health authority fully took over, with more staff and managers added by mid-April.

While it became clear after a first case on March 27 that other residents were presenting symptoms, widespread testing only happened around mid-April, and only after that were COVID hot zones established to keep those infected separate.

The coroner's mandate is to investigate 53 deaths at six long-term care homes and one seniors residence -- including 47 at Herron -- during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2021.


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