Families disappointed, sad as probe into spring COVID-19 deaths at Montreal West Island care home delayed

Family members of people who died at the CHSLD Herron care home on Montreal’s West Island said Tuesday they were disappointed and upset after the coroner at the public inquiry into Quebec’s long-term care homes delayed the probe into events at that facility until autumn.

Moira Davis, whose father died at Herron, expressed worry there could be more delays.

“These families are looking for closure,” and expect answers as to exactly what went so badly wrong, Davis said.

“Am I disappointed? Yes,” she said.

The owners of the long-term care home filed a motion Monday to have the inquiry delayed until prosecutors decide whether to lay criminal charges against them. 

Flowers and notes for loved ones are seen at a makeshift memorial in front of the CHSLD Herron last April. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Coroner Géhane Kamel ruled Tuesday that the hearings into what happened at the CHSLD will be delayed until September.

Forty-seven people died at the home during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“I’m just upset,” said Patrizia Di Biase, whose mother Antonietta Pollice survived last spring’s outbreaks and has since moved out.

“Yes, my mom is still around, but I’m upset. Just because they don’t want it to taint them they are suspending it,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”

The point of the inquiry, she continued, is “not to go after [CHSLD Herron’s owners]. It’s not to go after them. It’s to fix things in our seniors system.”

WATCH | Patrizia Di Biase says families still waiting for closure

Patrizia Di Biase, whose mother Antonietta Pollice survived last spring’s outbreaks at CHSLD Herron, said families want answers, not delays. 1:21

A lawyer for four families who lost loved ones at CHSLD Herron last spring said Kamel made “the least bad decision,” considering her options.

“From the perspective of the families, of course it’s very sad,” Patrick Martin-Ménard said. “Unfortunately, this is the reality of our justice system.”

Calling the decision a “painful dilemma,” Kamel explained that if the inquiry had gone ahead as planned, she expected the lawyers for Herron’s owners, Gatineau-based Katasa Groupe + Développement, to take the matter to court.

“The last time a coroner’s ruling was challenged before the Superior Court, the inquiry was delayed for four years,” she said.

The inquiry, which is slated to look into several CHSLDs in the province, will continue its other work in the interim.

On Monday, Kamel described the conditions in which residents died as “indecent” and “inhumane.”

WATCH | Surviving residents of one of Quebec’s hardest hit long-term care homes are moving out

CHSLD Herron became the symbol of the COVID-19 catastrophe that ravaged long-term care homes in Quebec. One by one, the surviving residents are being moved out. 3:18

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