Quebec Premier Francois Legault says 31 people have died since March 13 at a west−end Montreal long−term care home that is now under trusteeship.
Legault said at least five patients at the Residence Herron in Dorval, Que., died after testing positive for COVID−19.
The news comes on a long weekend where long−term care homes across the country have been in the spotlight because of troubling reports in Ontario and Quebec.
Legault says Quebec’s Health Department has ordered an investigation and the province’s Public Security Department has also asked for a police investigation.
Legault says the owner of the long−term care residence owns other such homes and they will all be inspected.
Legault says a regional health authority investigated Residence Herron on March 29, three days after the first death. The authority found the residence “deserted” as staff had walked off the job.
Earlier Saturday, politicians and public health officials promised new measures to further protect long−term care home residents and workers are coming very soon, as facilities caring for some of Canada’s most vulnerable grappled with “horrific” COVID−19 outbreaks over the weekend.
“People who are residents at long−term care homes are a particularly vulnerable group of Canadians and we have been working very closely with the provinces to put in place measures to protect the safety of those people even more,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a Saturday morning news conference.
She was joined by chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who had a slew of recommendations for long−term care homes, including limiting volunteering to “essential work only,” like feeding residents.
Anyone entering such homes should wear a mask for the duration of their shift or visit, meal times should not involve residents congregating closely together and items used by many people at these facilities should be cleaned and disinfected, she added.
Their remarks came as regional health authorities in Quebec took over two facilities after a Montreal Gazette story alleged authorities found two residents dead and many others who were unfed and soiled with feces.
Regional health authority CIUSSS Ouest−de−l’Ile−de−Montreal deployed a manager to Residence Herron to ensure better control of the situation at the facility.
“Our teams are highly mobilized to ensure that residents receive appropriate care,” the health authority said. “We are aware that this is a difficult situation for the residents and their families. We are putting everything in place to ensure that the situation is under control, and it is in the process of stabilizing.”
Meanwhile, a group home for adults with disabilities just north of Toronto, Ont., reported that an outbreak there led most personal support workers to walk off the job Thursday.
“These are incredibly horrific reports that we have all been seeing, really heart−wrenching situations,” said Freeland.
She and Tam lauded B.C., which has stopped long−term care home staff from working at multiple facilities in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I am really heartened to see not just B.C., but many other provinces announce some of these stricter measures they are putting in place to protect residents of those facilities,” Tam said.
“This is the moment to really step up on everything we can do.”
Shortly before Freeland and Tam spoke, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer extended his sympathies to anyone in a long−term care home who is experiencing a drop in the quality of care they may be receiving and to the loved ones of the facilities in Quebec and Ontario, where there have been reports of outbreaks, staffing problems and neglected residents.
“As someone who had a parent spend the last few years of her life in a long term care facility, I can absolutely understand where people are coming from (and) the very real heartache that they’re going through when they see their loved ones in the conditions that the reports indicate,” he said.
The incidents, he said, raised important questions about ensuring front−line workers have the protective equipment that they need and that standards are continuing to be met across the country.
By Tara Deschamps and Sidhartha Banerjee