Around half of the country’s deaths from coronavirus – at the latest count, 1,587 – have taken place in its nursing homes, according to Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.
In the worst-known case, 31 residents at the 150-bed Résidence Herron nursing home in Montreal died in less than one month – five with confirmed cases of COVID-19, The New York Times reports.
The nursing home is now under police investigation for gross negligence with allegations that staff abandoned the home, forcing the local health authority to take control of the home.
The team sent to the home found dehydrated residents in their beds who had not been fed for days with full sanitary pants being cared for by a skeleton staff of two nurses.
“I’d never seen anything like it in my 32-year nursing career,” nurse Loredana Mule said. “It was horrific – there wasn’t enough food to feed people, the stench could’ve killed a horse.”
After she left the home, she said, she collapsed in her car and wept.
The home’s owner, Samir Chowieri, served 15 months in prison for drug trafficking and had been convicted of fraud, but this record was expunged in 2014 and Mr Chowieri received a pardon.
Katasa, the company that owns the Herron, has denied negligence at the home and said the regional health authority did not answer its calls for help – and most of the deaths happened after the authority took over the home in late March.
But Quebec premier, François Legault, says it is “unacceptable” that a person convicted of serious crimes ended up running a nursing home, and questioned why there were rigorous background checks for employees of nursing homes in Quebec but not for owners.