Herron care home was ‘deserted,’ even after health authority took over, recordings show

Click to play video: 'Tearful testimony further contradicts initial claims at Herron coroner’s inquest'
Tearful testimony further contradicts initial claims at Herron coroner’s inquest
WATCH: More revelations have surfaced about what happened in the days leading up to the Herron tragedy, where dozens of seniors died in long-term care during the pandemic's first wave. As Global's Gloria Henriquez reports, the opposition says a recording of a nurse's emotional testimony, recently made public, is further proof an inquiry is needed to shed light on what really happened – Apr 7, 2022

A nurse who volunteered at the Herron long-term-care home in the early days of the pandemic described the situation she encountered as “senseless,” newly released recordings show.

“I felt powerless,” said Sophie Caron, a head nurse at Lakeshore General Hospital, which is under the West Island CIUSSS, the local regional health authority.

“We were both looking at each other with the paramedics and it’s like, ‘this makes no sense, not in Quebec, not here at home.'”

The recordings were entered into evidence for the coroner’s inquest investigating COVID-19 deaths in the province’s care homes.

They feature a one-hour-long interview between Caron and a police investigator.

Through tears, Caron describes to the officer the “heartbreaking” state she says she found seniors in, including her mother, a resident at the facility.

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Caron told police that when she went to the Herron on April 7, 2020, there was no one from the health authority on the premises.

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“It was deserted,” Caron is heard saying in the recording. “It took about six, seven minutes before we found someone and that person was completely overwhelmed.”

Emails presented to the coroner as evidence obtained by Radio-Canada suggest the West Island CIUSSS told Quebec’s ministry of seniors, nearly a week before on March 29, that they were taking over the long-term-care home.

When questioned at the National Assembly on Thursday, the minister responsible for seniors repeated once again that at the time, she was reassured by the head of the CIUSSS that they were taking care of the facility and “everything was under control.”

“We will let the coroner present her report to shed all light into what happened exactly,” Marguerite Blais said. “I was reassured that there was staff at the place.”

But for opposition MLAs, the buck stops at the minister and they said she needs to own up to her inaction.

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“It’s getting from bad to worst and to see the government trying to find all kinds of scapegoats makes me feel bad and ashamed as well,” said Vincent Marissal, a Quebec Solidaire MNA and the party’s health critic.

Liberal MNA Enrico Ciccone said the recording is further proof that an independent public inquiry is needed. He added that what happened at the Herron could just be the tip of the iceberg.

“We want an inquiry across Quebec because what we’re seeing now in Herron is horrible but it happened everywhere else,” Ciccone said. “Maybe not in the same level, but it happened also. Some mistakes were made.”

A public inquiry, they said, is a way to give answers to those who lost loved ones during the pandemic and to find solutions so it never happens again.

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