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COVID-19: Montreal health director to leave job after coroner’s report into Herron deaths

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Montreal health director to step down after coroner’s report into Herron deaths' COVID-19: Montreal health director to step down after coroner’s report into Herron deaths
WATCH: Lynne McVey has decided not to renew her contract as head of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal regional health authority. Her decision to step down comes on the heels of a scathing report in the deaths of seniors in long-term-care facilities during the first wave of the pandemic – including CHSLD Herron where 47 people died. Global’s Tim Sargeant reports – May 17, 2022

Lynne McVey, the head of the Montreal regional health authority that stepped in to take over the CHSLD Herron as a fatal wave of COVID-19 swept through the long-term care home, is stepping down this summer.

McVey will not seek another term as CEO of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal after her current mandate comes to an end in July.

The health authority, which oversees the western portion of Montreal, confirmed the move in a statement issued Tuesday.

McVey’s decision comes one day after a damning report from a Quebec coroner into dozens of pandemic-related deaths at nursing homes across the province.

Coroner Géhane Kamel’s report looked at the 47 deaths during the spring of 2020 at the Herron, a private care home in Dorval. The dire situation prompted the inquest, along with several other investigations.

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Read more: Coroner says Quebec Health Department chose to ignore COVID-19 risk in long-term care

Kamel found that staff at the Herron was obviously unprepared for the pandemic, adding there were not enough nurses. There was also a shortage of basic supplies such as diapers and sheets.

The coroner specifically criticized McVey, noting that the majority of deaths at the Herron occurred after the government took over the facility in late March 2020. During the inquest, McVey testified that authorities did what they could to save lives.

In her report, Kamel wrote it was “disgraceful” of the regional health director to criticize the Herron’s decision to transfer residents to a hospital during the early days of the pandemic. She said “both parties were well aware of the impossibility for the CHSLD to assume basic care.”

“Unfortunately, in the meantime in early April, transfers stopped, but the number of deaths did continue to rise,” Kamel wrote. “This act made the most sense if these residents were to have a chance of getting out of this situation.”

Click to play video: 'Coroner slams Quebec for ignoring COVID-19 risk in long-term care' Coroner slams Quebec for ignoring COVID-19 risk in long-term care
Coroner slams Quebec for ignoring COVID-19 risk in long-term care – May 16, 2022

Even after CIUSSS stepped in, the situation was “still chaos” and some residents were in “dire straits,” during the weekend of April 4, according to Kamel. In fact, the bodies of some residents who had died were only removed by funeral services more than 24 hours later, she added.

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At the same time, Kamel says, health-care staff at the Herron were at the “end of their rope” and didn’t know who to turn to when it came to management.

Kamel also questioned McVey’s call to 911 about the unfolding crisis at the Herron on April 11, one day after a bombshell report by the Montreal Gazette into the situation. The coroner notes the CIUSSS had also hired a lobbying and communications firm, which was previously reported by Global News, during that time.

Kamel wrote “it is difficult to understand the purpose” of McVey’s call, since the situation was alarming as of and even before March 29, 2020.

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
Tearful testimony further contradicts initial claims at Herron coroner’s inquest – Apr 7, 2022

The CIUSSS said in its statement Tuesday it is “currently 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.”

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The health authority added that McVey wouldn’t be speaking to media about her decision to step down. Najia Hachimi-Idrissi will take over the role on an interim basis until her position is filled.

Legault weighs in on coroner’s report

Quebec Premier François Legault responded to questions about the coroner’s report into deaths at long-term care homes during the first wave of the pandemic.

He told reporters Tuesday there “needs to be more accountability” from top to bottom.

Read more: Email reveals Quebec ministers knew earlier about Herron care home tragedy

But Legault added that the “premier and minister of health cannot begin to manage what is happening in all health establishments in Quebec.”

When asked about the coroner’s findings about the Herron, Legault said it was important for directors of regional health authorities to monitor “what is happening and inform the government.”

“This was not the case with the CHSLD Herron,” Legault said.

‘It’s about time’

The departure of the regional health authority director is welcome news to Peter Wheeland, whose parents both spent time at the Herron.

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“It’s about time,” he said, referring to McVey’s decision. “She had no credibility with us from the beginning.”

Wheeland had moved his father out of the facility in March 2020, but his father later tested positive for the coronavirus after being moved to another long-term care facility managed by the same regional health authority and died.

He has previously said that he later spent days seeking answers after his elderly mother started showing symptoms of COVID-19. She was transferred to a hospital.

Click to play video: 'Quebec government shoots down Herron seniors home inquiry' Quebec government shoots down Herron seniors home inquiry
Quebec government shoots down Herron seniors home inquiry – Apr 15, 2022

After she recovered, Wheeland moved his mother out and into a private apartment. She died later that winter from an unrelated cause.

With McVey’s impending departure, he said he believes family members “would have liked to have seen was some acceptance of her responsibility for what went on at the Herron and an apology to the families.”

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“That hasn’t been forthcoming.”

— with files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

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