Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé confirmed Monday that CHSLD Herron, a private long-term care residence where dozens of residents died in a three-week span during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, is shutting down.
The Health Ministry has tasked the West Island regional health agency, known as the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de l’Île-de Montreal, with relocating residents to new facilities on its territory.
The relocation phase is expected to be done progressively over the next six to 12 months.
The CIUSSS said it it will be organizing meetings with each of the Herron’s residents and their families in the upcoming weeks to discuss future living arrangements.
In the interim, the health agency will take on the full management of the Herron and will continue to provide care and services to its residents.
The CIUSSS said all precautions are being taken to ensure that relocations will be carried out in a safe manner, both for residents and the communities they will be joining.
“The CIUSSS is already in contact with its infection prevention and control service,” a statement from the health agency reads.
The relocation plan comes after Groupe Katasa, the owners of the residence, decided to end operations.
A letter was sent out to families of residents advising them that the facility in Dorval would come under the management of the CIUSSS, but a spokesperson for Katasa said the group did not wish to make further comment.
For Keira Whitehead, hearing about the closure was welcome news. Her father, a resident of Herron, died of COVID-19 in April.
“I’m very pleased about it. They deserved to be closed. It’s a surprise, but a good surprise,” she said.
Patrizia Di Biase, whose mother currently lives at Herron, was also surprised.
“I got an email Monday morning, and I had to read it in English and in French because I was shocked, I had no idea what was going on,”
Di Biase said that while she’s in favour of the move, she does have some concerns.
“I would like my mom to have a fresh start, but the dementia is the hard part,” she said. “But to get out of here, because yeah, it does bring back bad memories. Just hearing all of those people that died. It’s absolutely horrible.”
The CIUSSS says it hasn’t forgotten about staff at the residence and is organizing a major recruitment blitz starting Tuesday.
“Recruiters will be present this week at the CHSLD Herron to conduct interviews with candidates interested in pursing their careers within the large team of the CIUSSS,” the health agency said.
Several investigations were launched in the spring following the death of residents at the home.
The private facility was placed under government trusteeship after regional health authorities in late March found only three employees on site to care for 133 residents, some of whom were sitting in overflowing diapers and suffering from dehydration.
A government-commissioned report released in mid-September said a total of 38 people died at Residence Herron between March 26 and April 16, including 23 who died in less than a week between April 5 and 10.
The report concluded that authorities at Herron repeatedly failed to address shortcomings noted in prior inspection reports and in a coroner’s report, largely because of vacancies in key posts and a turnover rate that reached 20 per cent a year.
“This has been such a terrible case in the first wave,” Dubé said. “Patients in this situation have been wrongfully treated there.”
CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de l’Île-de Montreal president Lynne McVey thanked all those who had contributed to stabilizing the situation at Herron.
“Thanks to your efforts, the situation has been under control for several months and residents are receiving the appropriate care and services they are entitled to,” she said in a written statement.
McVey also had reassuring words for residents and families who might be nervous about upcoming changes.
“Our team will be able to care for them and support them during each of the steps to come, whether it be either during planning, during the move or when integrating them into their new living environments,” she said.
Asked whether the government has plans to assume ownership of all privately-owned long-term care facilities to prevent similar situations in the future, Dubé said the government was still looking at different solutions.
For the time being, however, Dubé said buying out owners isn’t an option. Rather, the government would prefer taking over the management of facilities on a case-by-case basis.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Felicia ParrilloView link »