The owner of the private CHSLD Herron admitted to having been completely overwhelmed by events as soon as a first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in her center at the end of March 2020.
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“Looking ahead, do I think we could have done more? I don’t know, said Samantha Chowieri, before bursting into tears in front of coroner Géhane Kamel. I apologize to the families who have to hear this. ”
On March 27, 2020, the CHSLD was notified by the family of a resident that the eldest had received a positive screening test for COVID-19. The situation then quickly deteriorated, according to his testimony yesterday at the public hearings on the deaths at the Herron.
Already, protective equipment was scarce and the CHSLD had recourse to an agency because it lacked personnel. As soon as a first case is discovered, it begins to lose staff, while even its general manager falls ill.
As of March 28, Ms. Chowieri called on the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal to fill her shifts. But at this point, he is told that the reinforcements will take several days to come. Even serving meals is then difficult, as the kitchen staff are afraid to go to the rooms, she said.
That evening, she left the CHSLD with her needs met “in a minimal and sufficient manner”. But the next morning, she learns that “things are bad”.
During the night, several employees reportedly experienced symptoms and left. “I still have a hard time understanding what happened that night,” she admitted.
“Didn’t you tempt you to look for that information?” Ms. Kamel replied, astonished that employees had abandoned vulnerable patients.
“It was chaos by the time I arrive [sur place] », Explained the owner.
As mentioned previously, employees who called 8-1-1 were told to isolate themselves upon contact, however brief, with a positive case.
“I was hitting walls everywhere,” she said, noting that she had made a hundred calls to find employees.
Samantha Chowieri admitted that she was “relieved” when the CIUSSS arrived on March 29. “I clearly wasn’t able to do it on my own,” she whispered.
But quickly, the relationship turned acrimonious. That same evening, Brigitte Auger of the CIUSSS, responsible for the CHSLD-Home support service, would have accused Ms. Chowieri of mistreatment.
The owner stressed that she has always sought to collaborate with the CIUSSS, but that it was not reciprocal. She continued to work on finding staff and working schedules after March 29, even though CIUSSS officials had told her that they had taken charge of human resources, because she did not feel that it was. made.
She said she had never been invited to the CIUSSS crisis meetings to resolve the situation.
Earlier today, the former director general of CHSLD Herron, Andrei Stanica, was even more critical of the intervention of the CIUSSS during his testimony. According to him, it was an intervention “without structure” and a supervision carried out “by people who do not know how a CHSLD works”.
The latter, however, had to defend himself from having called in employment agency workers without checking their qualifications or criminal record. He said he took it for granted that if the agency hired them, it must have.
Géhane Kamel mentioned that the CHSLD Herron could have been hit harder because of its weak internal structure, stressing that the management rested mainly on the shoulders of three people.
“That does not excuse the lack of preparation,” she added nonetheless.
At the start of her testimony, Ms. Chowieri recounted that her family business, the Katasa Group, owned six retirement homes (RPA), but only one private CHSLD.
“Swiss cheese, full of holes”
Speaking clearly, the daughter of a deceased resident in Herron gave her first testimony at the public hearings, harshly criticizing the process.
Moira Davis, daughter of Stanley E. Pinnell, has compared the hearings that have been going on for three weeks to “Swiss cheese, full of holes”. She regrets that “difficult” questions were not asked and that the CIUSSS managers testified first and that the inconsistencies mentioned since their visit will perhaps not be clarified.
She believes that a large public inquiry is necessary and that CHSLDs should no longer be private companies.
She also mentioned the wish that the College of Physicians look into the actions of the three family physicians of the CHSLD Herron, who have teleworked. According to her, her father was neglected long before the pandemic, losing weight for months, despite his doctor’s weekly visits.