Independent investigation launched after COVID-19 outbreak kills 3 in Quebec City seniors' home

The minister responsible for seniors, Maguerite Blais, says she wants to know how an COVID-19 outbreak at a private seniors' home in Quebec City was handled following the deaths of three residents.

Three residents have died, 21 others infected at Auberge aux 3 Pignons in Beauport

The province is ordering an independent investigation into a COVID-19 outbreak at the private long-term care facility Auberge aux Trois Pignons, in Quebec City's Beauport neighbourhood, where three people have died. (Jean-Michel Cloutier/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government hopes an independent investigation into a COVID-19 outbreak at a Quebec City long-term care home — where three people have died since July 11 — will provide some answers as to how the situation was handled by the home's owners.

Twenty-one residents at Auberge aux Trois Pignons have tested positive for the virus, in addition to seven staff members at the private facility in the Beauport neighbourhood.

The minister responsible for seniors, Marguerite Blais, said the investigators, who arrived on site Tuesday afternoon, will also look at the response by the local health authority, the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale.

"We want to have the facts, the time, the day — we don't want to have another situation like Herron," said Blais, referring to the April outbreak at the CHSLD Herron in Dorval, which killed 43 residents.

The CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale dispatched doctors and nurses to the residence after the first cases were declared on July 11.

One of those doctors said when she arrived, many regular staff members had quit and some residents weren't getting their medication or receiving basic care, like treatment for bed sores.

Dr. Karyne Cordeau is also critical of the amount of time it took before more employees were sent to make up for the staffing shortage.

"When we're on the ground, we have to scream to be heard," Cordeau said.

Blais said the investigators will also look into how long it took for those cries for help to be answered.

Situation 'under control'

On Tuesday, the CIUSSS said it was officially taking over management of the residence. It considers the situation to be under control, with 50 public health professionals on site to care for residents.

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 reported at the home in the last five days, but the "deterioration of living conditions" in the home has convinced public health to keep their staff in place.

Spokesperson Nancy Drouin said a dedicated phone line will also allow families to get answers and speak directly with personnel to inquire about their loved ones. 

Drouin said the CIUSSS acted swiftly when the outbreak first occurred.

"We have a team dedicated to COVID that is well structured, well organized," Drouin said. "When we face additional challenges, we have to adjust."

Families concerned

Before Blais' announcement, the son of one resident living at the residence had also expressed concern for the well-being of people who are living at the home, which has 93 units.

CBC has agreed not to reveal the man's identity, because he does not want his father to suffer any consequences.

He said the care provided by the home deteriorated after July 11. He said his father missed several meals and wasn't always given his medication. 

"I find it appalling. We entrust these people with our parents," he said. "I think this is inhumane and just sad."

The Minister responsible for seniors, Marguerite Blais, said the investigation will look into how the home's owner, but also public health, reacted to the outbreak. (Radio-Canada)

The owner of the home, Guy Lemay, responded by e-mail, saying his team has always been dedicated to offering the best care possible to residents.

Lemay wrote that his team co-operated with public health and has been following recommendations coming from the CIUSSS, but also from personnel and families.

"We will never spare any efforts to provide the best care possible," he wrote. 

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