Situation at Herron `10, 15, 20 times worse' than at other CHSLDS
Many deaths could have been averted if call for staff came earlier, inquest hears
Many of the deaths at the CHSLD Herron could have been prevented if a request had been made sooner to the West Island health authority's human resources department to hire more on-the-ground staff, and not just managers.
That's what the inquest into the deaths at private long-term care homes heard Monday from witness Alexandre Mercier, who worked in the CIUSSS de l'ouest-de-l'île-de-montréal's human resources department during the first wave of the pandemic.
During the first wave, 47 of approximately 130 residents at the Dorval CHSLD died. The coroner's inquest is investigating the deaths of residents in Quebec long-term care centres early in the pandemic.
When he first arrived to help at the Herron on March 29, 2020, Mercier said, the CIUSSS had only sent managers there, although some had experience working as patient attendants and some had nursing training.
Still, it was only on April 5 that a request was made to Mercier to try to find nurses, patient attendants and auxiliary nurses.
Coroner Jacques Ramsay asked Mercier if the delay in sending staff to the Herron was because unions had refused.
“No,” Mercier replied. Then why not contact employees with experience providing direct patient care before April 5, Ramsay asked. Mercier said he thought it was possibly because details about the CIUSSS'S role and responsibilities still needed to be clarified.
Ramsay asked what would have happened if the request had been made before April 5.
“We could have perhaps avoided a lot of deaths,” Mercier replied.
In order to respect patient-staff ratios, the Herron should have had a list of about 140 employees to cover all the work shifts, as well as a list of other employees to call in as needed, for a total of about 150 staff. But the staff list Mercier was given on April 5 only included about 70 to 80 employees, he said.
Mercier said the CIUSSS sent a total of 300 employees to the Herron over three weeks. He said he did everything he could to find staff.
It was only in June, he added, that they began to have a “certain kind of control” and had a stable number of staff with a stable schedule at Herron.
While Mercier had been able to find some employees, he said many of them wanted to quit after their first shift. Some of them went on leave afterwards, he added.
“You can understand that,” he said.
Coroner Géhane Kamel asked Mercier to compare the situation at the Herron to the eight other long-term care centres in the CIUSSS'S territory.
Mercier said it was “10, 15, 20 times worse” at Herron than at the other residences.
Mercier said employees who were brought in through private placement agencies were not ideal. Some spoke neither English nor French. He said one man left when he was asked for identification. The next day, he filed a refugee request. He showed up at the residence a third time, using a different name, Mercier said.
He said some of the employees from a placement agency had no training. At least one of them spent his shift sleeping in one of the rooms belonging to a dead resident, he added.