When Brigitte Auger arrived at CHSLD Herron on the evening of March 29, 2020, she toured the rooms to check the condition of the residents. Some were lying in their beds, the lights turned off, a blanket over their heads. Even though she said she was a non-practitioner, she made the sign of the cross, hoping to find in everyone “a living person.”
This is what Ms. Auger, director of the support program for the autonomy of the elderly at the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, told coroner Géhane Kamel on Thursday.
“In my head, it’s my mother, it’s my aunt, it’s people who need help. Every time I turn on the light – I’ll tell you there are rooms where the light was turned off, there are people who are lying down, bedridden, a blanket over their heads. I’m not a practicing Christian, but in my head, I make my sign of the cross to make sure… I want to find every room with a living person, ”Ms. Auger summed up to the coroner.
Coroner Kamel is investigating the deaths of seniors and vulnerable people that occurred during the first wave of COVID-19, in the spring of 2020, and particularly at CHSLD Herron, in Dorval, where 47 people died.
Ms. Auger came to help in this residence, like other of her CIUSSS executive colleagues, even though she had no training as a nurse. She affirms that she was there “in support” of the management of the unconventional private CHSLD, and not by placing under supervision from that moment.
The date is important, because the coroner is trying to find out who was responsible for finding staff for this CHSLD: the owners of Herron or the CIUSSS? Had the CIUSSS only come to act in support of Herron, who had contacted him to ask for help on March 29, or had the CIUSSS then become the real manager of Herron, as if he had been put under guardianship?
Ms. Auger confesses that she did not expect what she saw that evening. Admittedly, all the CHSLDs and private seniors’ residences were understaffed, because of the pandemic, but not at this point, she raised.
She had several discussions with the owner of CHSLD Herron, Samantha Chowieri, and did not find her in bad faith. She portrayed her as a young manager who didn’t have a lot of experience and who didn’t even know the place. But she was also looking to find staff, said Ms Auger.