Montreal

West Island health board CEO steps down after scathing Quebec coroner's report

Lynne McVey, the embattled head of the West Island health board, who was named in a coroner's report published yesterday for her role in the poor handling of the crisis at CHSLD Herron, where dozens of seniors died at the beginning of the pandemic, will not seek to renew her mandate in July. 

Coroner wonders in report why Lynne McVey called 911 more than a week after her team took control of CHSLD

Lynne McVey, head of the West Island health board, was named in the report by coroner Géhane Kamel. The health board announced Tuesday she would not be seeking to renew her mandate in July. (Jean-Claude Taliana/CBC)

Lynne McVey, the embattled head of the West Island health board who was named in a coroner's report published yesterday for her role in the poor handling of the crisis at CHSLD Herron, will not seek to renew her mandate in July. 

McVey led the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal when it took control on March 29, 2020 of the long-term care home where dozens of seniors died at the beginning of the pandemic, after owners called the province for help. 

The home was severely short-staffed and COVID-19 cases were spreading quickly, as employees struggled to provide residents with even the most basic care. 

But, as coroner Géhane Kamel noted in her report about the wave of deaths in Quebec congregate living settings in the pandemic's first wave, the situation at Herron did not improve after the CIUSSS stepped in. 

Five days later, the weekend of April 4 to 6, 2020, was particularly gruesome, as several more residents died, Kamel recounted. 

Whoever was left of the staff that weekend— many were sick or had deserted out of fear and frustration — did not know where to look for leadership.

Residents were lying in urine and feces. The bodies of those who died were left in their rooms for more than 24 hours before being taken away to a funeral home.

"That image alone is unworthy of a civilized society," Kamel wrote. 

What's more, the health board appeared more focused on its image and blaming Herron than getting to the root of the problems at the home, Kamel said, noting it had hired a communications consulting firm.

She wondered why McVey took pains to call 911 in the middle of the night April 11, when her health board had had control of the residence for more than a week already.

"Listening to the audio of the 911 call by Madame McVey, it's hard to understand the purpose of the call since the situation had been alarming since March 29, 2020," Kamel wrote.

Earlier that day, Montreal Gazette journalist Aaron Derfel had published an investigation unveiling what was happening at Herron.

Had the CIUSSS and Herron agreed on each other's roles in the crisis, several deaths could have been prevented in early April, the coroner wrote. 

The CIUSSS announced McVey's departure Tuesday morning. The health board said in a statement that it is reviewing the coroner's report and its recommendations, "and is committed to implementing them for the safety and well-being of its users and residents." 

Najia Hachimi-Idrissi, the CIUSSS's current associate director, will replace McVey until the health board hires a new CEO. 

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