Crisis at Herron nursing home dragged on for days after health authority was made aware

More than 10 days after local health authorities were made aware of horrific conditions at the Herron nursing home in Dorval, Que., residents were still without access to proper care and medical treatment, a coroner’s inquest heard Friday.

Marie-Ève Rompré, a senior nurse at Montreal’s St. Mary’s Hospital, said she first visited Herron on April 8 to provide assistance.

The West Island health authority, which oversees the home, had been alerted to the crisis unfolding at the privately run home on March 29, if not earlier.

When Rompré arrived that evening after her day job at the hospital, she said the situation was still dire and prescription medication for residents was not up to date.

She returned the next day having recruited a team of nine nurses. They divided up to care for the 131 residents in the home.

In one room, Rompré recalled, she found a woman unconscious, with a fever. The phone rang.

It was her husband.

“He said, ‘it’s been weeks I’ve been trying to talk to someone,'” Rompre recalled.

Rompré was able to wake the woman up, and the couple spoke. The woman called her daughter as well.

She died soon after at Herron, Rompré said.

Coroner Géhane Kamel is presiding over an inquest into the crisis at Herron, the privately run long-term care home where 47 people died during the pandemic’s first wave.

Kamel heard earlier this week that health workers with the West Island health authority first visited the home March 29 – and that concern had even been raised two days earlier, on March 27.

Kamel praised Rompré for heroic efforts but said she was “revolted” by her testimony. She said it was “profoundly troubling” that it took so long for authorities to rectify the situation at Herron.

Addressing the families of residents listening to the inquiry, Kamel said, “I am so sorry that you are hearing this testimony.”

‘Whole network was in crisis’

At the inquest, which began Tuesday and will continue for two more weeks, Kamel has set her sights on trying to understand the poor management and gaps in communication that resulted in an extended period where residents were not provided adequate care.

Rompré said that, based on the condition of some of the residents, it was clear they had not been given proper care prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

She said a woman they treated had not had a bath since December 2019.

Stéphanie Larose, another nurse, saw horrific conditions when she arrived to help at the home on April 3.

In her testimony Friday morning, Larose said she tried to slowly improve the dire situation, day by day.

“Every day the situation improved, but the whole network was in crisis,” she said.

“It was better April 4 than April 3, and it was better April 5 than April 4. “