Retired Quebec health manager shocked by situation at Residence Herron, coroner hears

A coroner's inquest into deaths at a suburban Montreal long-term care home is hearing from a former manager who acted as an intermediary between the local health authority and the owners of the facility.

Brigitte Auger was director of a support program for seniors and says she was contacted by a colleague at Lakeshore General Hospital about the situation at Residence Herron early on March 29, 2020 after two residents were transferred to the hospital.

Her testimony is part of a Quebec coroner's Gehane Kamel's ongoing probe examining 53 deaths at six long-term care homes and one seniors residence during the pandemic's first wave.

Like some of her management colleaguesat the health authority, Auger went to help out at the facility in Dorval, Que., which has since closed.

She says she got there around dinner time on March 29 and was met with silence and empty hallways and an owner struggling to find staff as her usual manager was home ill with COVID-19.

Auger, who has since retired, noted that most elder care facilities were experiencing staffing shortages at the time due to COVID-19, but she was unprepared for what she saw at Herron and it was clear to her there hadn't been adequate staff for several days.

She says she spent several hours that night on the third floor of the facility with a pair of orderlies, going from room to room and helping anyway she could, from changing soiled diapers and sheets to providing yogurt and water.

She says some residents were still in their beds with the covers drawn over them like it was the middle of the night but many were happy to see her.

Auger says she isn't religious, but she would make the sign of the cross before entering each room, hoping to find a person alive inside.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2021.

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