'It was so inhumane': Conditions in Dorval seniors' residence prompt investigation

The West Island health agency is investigating conditions inside a private seniors' residence in Dorval after reports surfaced of severely neglected patients and a shocking number of deaths.

Daughter worries for her mother who describes subpar care inside CHSLD Herron

A body was loaded into a van outside of CHSLD Herron, a seniors' residence in Dorval, on Friday afternoon. (CBC)

The West Island health agency is investigating conditions inside a private seniors' residence in Dorval after reports surfaced of severely neglected patients and a shocking number of deaths in recent weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll not just on residents, but staff as well.

Two residents of CHSLD Herron have died of COVID-19 and 18 others have died of unspecified causes, Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said early Friday afternoon.

She did not specify when the deaths occurred and could not say if the 18 others were suspected of having the coronavirus, which has been known to kill elderly patients quickly.

However, staff of the residence told CBC at least a dozen people have died of COVID-19 in the last two weeks, including one on Friday, and there are 30 confirmed cases among people still living there. 

McCann said the CIUSSS l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal took over Herron on March 29, caring for the residents and keeping families informed of the situation.

Health-care workers who showed up that day say the situation was nothing short of horrifying. They say residents showing COVID-19 symptoms were not properly separated from other residents. On top that, they say residents were left unfed and untended to, with full diapers and soiled beds.

On Tuesday, Montreal's regional health authority stepped in and ordered the CIUSSS to take all the necessary measures to ensure the care and safety of Herron's residents. 

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said the West Island health agency is investigating the situation at the CHSLD Herron after reports of horrifying conditions surface. (CBC)

'I cried for 20 minutes'

Loredana Mule is among those nurses who was called in to help. She worked one shift at Herron on March 29 and never went back.

"I got in my car and I cried for 20 minutes, I was so distraught from my experience," she told CBC News. "It was so inhumane."

She worked with two other nurses, struggling to feed some 60 residents. Inside their rooms, she said, "the stench could kill a horse with the urine and feces."

After seeing the conditions, she pulled her own mother out of long-term care in LaSalle despite protests from the administration there. Mule said she didn't want her mother to end up in a situation like what she saw in Herron.

Health Minister McCann said on Friday that she had only recently been informed of the reports that residents inside Herron have been neglected by staff.

"I want to have a report on this and, of course, this is very preoccupying, but I do trust that CIUSSS has taken charge and is taking care of the people inside the residence," said McCann, assuring families that public health authorities are now involved.

No news from home's administration, daughter says

Judie Wheeland just lost her 85-year-old father, who lived in a CHSLD in LaSalle, to COVID-19. Her mother, Connie Wheeland, lived at the CHSLD Herron until recently. 

The family moved Connie Wheeland to another facility on Friday night after weeks of uncertainty and a lack of information. 

"Not a phone call. Not a text. Not an email," Judie Wheeland said. 

Balloons hang on a tree outside of Connie Wheeland's window at the CHSLD Herron in Dorval. Her son and daughter-in-law hung them there to let her know they are thinking of her. (Radio-Canada)

When the health authority stepped in to help run the private home on March 29, an email was sent to families saying many staff members and replacement nurses had tested positive and were out sick. 

But even after the CIUSSS took over, the complaints of poor care continued. Judie Wheeland's mother painted a grim picture.

"There are days that they don't get her out of bed until quite late. She's wheelchair bound, so they need to help her out of bed," she said before moving her mother out.

'She just doesn't want to breathe'

Though her mother has not been infected, Judie Wheeland is worried she won't be able to survive this ordeal.

"Her husband of 62 years passed, so she's sad," she said.

"To quote her, she's fed up. She has chest pains. She says it doesn't hurt to breathe. She just doesn't want to breathe."

Judie Wheeland's siblings hung a message in front of Herron while their mother was there.

"My other brother and his wife were there at six o'clock in the morning, to put balloons in the tree so my mother could see we were thinking about her," she said.

Ken and Connie Wheeland were married 62 years. Ken Wheeland died of COVID-19 on Sunday. Connie Wheeland was living alone in CHSLD Herron, but her family pulled her out Friday night. (Submitted by Peter Wheeland)

Staff missing at 4 homes 

Herron is not the only institution in the West Island in dire straits. The Quebec nurses federation confirms that 110 staff members are on sick or preventative leave from four long-term care facilities in the West Island, including Herron.

Among those facilities is the LaSalle hospital, CHSLD LaSalle and Lachine's CHSLD Nazaire-Piché.

The local CIUSSS says nurses and clinical staff are being recruited from private and public facilities alike to give a helping hand.

With files from CBC's Ainslie MacLellan, Sarah Leavitt and Radio-Canada

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