Coronavirus: Working conditions at Residence Herron and owner’s past under scrutiny

Quebec’s premier is looking into allegations that one of the owners of Residence Herron in Dorval had a criminal record. Former staff, meanwhile, have been speaking out about working conditions. 

At least 31 patients recently died at the Dorval long-term care facility, five of whom were confirmed to have COVID-19. Two nursing staff members from the facility now claim they felt pressure from management to keep working, despite displaying symptoms of the virus.

“I’m really sad,” said one registered nurse about the tragic turn of events.

“The people we were taking care of we treated like our grandparents,” said the nurse, who asked to remain anonymous. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) from the facility who also wants to remain anonymous claims she had to bring her own mask to work.  

Both tested positive for COVID-19 and both stopped working when the regional health agency stepped in on March 29, despite showing symptoms several days before.

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“They knew and they still wanted me to come in,” said the LPN. 

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Lucio D’Intino of Le Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (RPCU). The RPCU represents 600 users committees in hospitals and long-term care facilities across the province.  

The situation at the Residence Herron is said to be better in terms of staffing and equipment. In a statement to Global News, the West Island CIUSSS, the regional health agency, enumerated a long list of actions that have been taken since the facility was put under trusteeship, including:

  • The creation of a hot zone to isolate infected residents and thereby limit the spread of COVID-19;
  • The addition of health workers;
  • The provision of additional protective equipment as required;
  • The visit of two geriatricians to the residence to support the teams in reassessing the condition of all residents.

On Monday, one of the owners of Groupe Katasa, the company that operates the residence, said it was difficult to get staff and blamed the CIUSSS for failing to provide adequate support.

On Wednesday, two Investigations by La Presse and The Montreal Gazette suggested one of its owners, Samir Chowieri, had a criminal record although he was later pardoned.

“It’s unacceptable for me if it’s really the truth,” said Francois Legault on Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve asked my people to check how come we have background checks for employees but not for owners.” 

In a statement from the company, a representative claims the owners did face a background check when they were awarded a permit.

“Mr. Chowieri and all the owners of this company were subjected to legal investigations before being able to invest in the nursing homes for the elderly,” the statement reads, adding Choweiri was issued a full pardon in 2014.   

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