PANDEMIC #1 - 33 Dead in Dorval
COMMONS
PANDEMIC #1 – 33 Dead in Dorval
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.
April 29, 2020

They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.

 

COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.

 

Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette)

To learn more:

Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel

Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel

Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci

 

This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.

 

 

This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar

 

Additional music:

Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted.

SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /

 

TRANSCRIPT:

EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”

 

COLD OPEN

[ARSHY MANN] 

On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night.

[AARON DERFEL] 

She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed.

[ARSHY] 

That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette.

Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another.

By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway.

[DERFEL] 

And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station.

[ARSHY]

The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening.

Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later.

[DERFEL]

Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.”

[ARSHY]

A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.

 

INTRO

[ARSHY]

It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy.

But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else.

Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care.

On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places.

We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again.

And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron.

I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.

 

PART 1

[ARSHY]

A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing.

Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard.

[DERFEL] 

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs.

[ARSHY]  

But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem.

Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source.

[DERFEL] 

A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening.

[ARSHY]  

His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers.

And what they found was simply horrifying.

[DERFEL] 

They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp.

[ARSHY]  

Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking.

[DERFEL] 

I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well.

[ARSHY]  

So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received.

He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported.

[DERFEL] 

There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?”

People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered.

[LOREDANA MULE] 

There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so.

When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried.

[ARSHY]  

But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange.

[DERFEL] 

The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time.

[ARSHY]

Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had.

On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion.

[DERFEL] 

This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents.

[ARSHY]

Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday.

[DERFEL] 

And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron.

So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths.

[FRANÇOIS LEGAULT]

Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron.

[ARSHY]

Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted.

[DERFEL]

He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was.

[ARSHY]

Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19.

[DERFEL]

So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses.

They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal.

[ARSHY]

There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners.

The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime.

In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto.

If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier.

Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low.

And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence.

Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected.

On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair.

And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated.

That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette

broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault.

[DERFEL]

So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this.

And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority.

[ARSHY]

Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days.

[DERFEL]

There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected.

[ARSHY]

Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.

 

[DERFEL]

And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients.

[ARSHY]

And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant.

[DERFEL] 

And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,

 

OUTRO

[ARSHY]

So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure?

The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely.

And then there’s the owners and the public health authority.

But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died.

What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic.

This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country.

END CREDITS

[ARSHY]

That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others.

We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod.

You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com.

This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley.

Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.

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They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
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They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
February 13, 2017
68
Strong Hearts To The Front
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
February 21, 2017
69
“I’m Ashamed Of Myself For Being Afraid”
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
March 7, 2017
70
You Have No Rights At The Border
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
March 21, 2017
71
Being Icky Is The Job
The Liberals, according to Conservative MP Scott Reid, are trying to "ram through whatever the f**** they want." In other, vaguely sexually-themed Conservative news, Brad Trost isn't down with the "the whole gay thing," while k.d. lang asks if Jason Kenney might be secretly fond of it. Kellie Leitch and Senator Lynn Beyak? Just crapping on Muslims and Indigenous peoples again, respectively. Nothing sexy there.
April 4, 2017
72
Commons Gets High
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
April 18, 2017
73
That’s Why We Live In A Democracy
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
May 2, 2017
74
Cultural Appropriation Is An Inherently Political Act
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
May 16, 2017
75
Drink Like A Conservative
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
May 30, 2017
76
Amy Goodman/The Constitutional Clusterf**k
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
June 13, 2017
77
The Rise Of The Right
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
July 4, 2017
78
Guy Caron, Guaranteed Income And Climate Refugees
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
September 12, 2017
79
Ashton, Angus & Singh – Oh My!
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
September 26, 2017
80
Why We Need Higher Taxes, A Canadian Mt. Rushmore And A Population Of 100 Million
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
October 10, 2017
81
Niqabs & Nafta
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
October 24, 2017
82
As If They Were Pets: The Sixties Scoop
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
November 6, 2017
No Protest is Genteel: On Antifa
Live from Vancouver: We speak with organizers Garth Mullins and Annie Ohana to unpack what it means to resist fascism in BC. Featuring Hadiya Roderique and guest host Sandy Garossino.
November 21, 2017
Invisible Victims: How Police Botched the Robert Pickton Case
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.   COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Aaron Derfel (Montreal Gazette) To learn more: Public health, police find bodies, feces at Dorval seniors’ residence: sources in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Records reveal chaos in the days before staff abandoned the Herron in the Montreal Gazette by Aaron Derfel Alleged neglect of seniors at residence in Dorval in CityNews Montreal by Alyssia Rubertucci   This show was brought to you by our patrons. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter.     This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar   Additional music: “Clean Soul” by Kevin Macleod and “Seeker” by Kai Engel, adapted. “SUNBIRDS” by BOCrew (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: THEDEEPR / THECORNER / feat : FORENSIC /   TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 1 – “33 DEAD IN DORVAL”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  On the evening of March 28th, Norma Christie was waiting. The 92-year old was living in the Résidence Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal. Like many of the other people living in the home, she needed the staff to help her get ready to go to sleep each night. [AARON DERFEL]  She’d wait in a wheelchair for an orderly to lift her out of her wheelchair to place on her bed. [ARSHY]  That’s Aaron Derfel, a veteran health reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Someone would usually come at around 7:30 p.m. to assist her. But that evening, it appeared that the staff were going to be late. So, Norma Christie waited. An hour went by. Then another hour. Then another. By 11 o’clock, she was still sitting there in her wheelchair. So she called up her daughter. “I don’t understand. I’m still in my wheelchair,” she told her. Her daughter promised to find out what was happening. After that call, Christie wheeled herself out of her room and into the hallway. [DERFEL]  And she describes this really… almost like a zombie-like scene of residents leaving their rooms, walking aimlessly in the hallway and no one at the nursing station. [ARSHY] The elderly residents, many of whom had dementia, were just wandering. And then there were the blinking lights. At the abandoned nurses station, Christie could see the call lights flickering on and off. Each one represented an elderly person begging for help, wondering what was happening. Norma Christie’s daughter called the police around 1 a.m. They arrived at the Herron about 30 minutes later. [DERFEL] Someone arrived at the door and the police said, “OK, you have to put Norma Christie to bed.” [ARSHY] A staff member finally went to assist the exhausted woman. But because of the pandemic, the police couldn’t enter the Herron. So, what they didn’t realize was that the facility had been all but abandoned. The long-term care facility, where around 150 incredibly vulnerable people lived, had only two staff left. Within two weeks, over 30 residents would be dead.   INTRO [ARSHY] It’s been a month and a half since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In Canada, we worried that our hospitals would be overrun, our intensive care units would be bursting and we’d be out of ventilators, just like we’d seen happen in Northern Italy. But we were wrong. We completely overlooked the places where this pandemic would hit the hardest. As health authorities focused limited resources on shoring up our ICUs, the novel coronavirus was spreading like wildfire somewhere else. Today, we’re only beginning to understand the extent of the carnage. We now know that, across Canada, 79% of the people who have died from COVID-19 have died in long term care. That’s despite the fact that less than 1 per cent of Canadians actually live in these homes. This pandemic is impacting all of us. But the vast majority of the people it’s killing… They’re in long-term care. On this emergency season of Commons, we’re going to begin by focusing in on these vulnerable places. We’ll be bringing you stories from the frontline of the pandemic. Residents, workers, family members. But we’ll also be exploring how we let this system become so fragile, and what we’ll need to do to avoid this kind of catastrophe again. And we’re going to start with the shocking story of the Résidence Herron. I’m Arshy Mann and from Canadaland, this is Commons.   PART 1 [ARSHY] A warning: Some of what you’re going to hear next is pretty disturbing. Aaron Derfel has been covering the health beat in Montreal for over two decades. And he wasn’t surprised for a minute that this pandemic would hit long-term care homes hard. [DERFEL]  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have known this. I mean, anyone who covered health knew that long-term care centers are always hit with outbreaks, whether it’s the seasonal flu or VRE or MRSA. These are these superbugs. [ARSHY]   But it wasn’t until Derfel wrote about what had been taking place at the Résidence Herron that Quebec and the rest of Canada began to wake up to the scale of the problem. Derfel was deep into reporting on the pandemic when he got a call from a source. [DERFEL]  A really, really good source of mine called me up and–and just described what had happened. That’s when I knew that there was this kind of… I don’t know if you’d call it a paradigm shift, but that there was something–something horrific happening. [ARSHY]   His source told him that on March 29th, the day after Norma Christie had been left alone in her wheelchair, a nurse from St. Mary’s Hospital called Résidence Herron. A person from Herron who had been admitted to their emergency room had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But the nurse couldn’t get through. No one at Herron was picking up. The nurse alerted the police and public health authorities and went over to Résidence Herron with other workers. And what they found was simply horrifying. [DERFEL]  They saw patients who were so dehydrated, and their mouths were so dry they couldn’t speak at first. They were malnourished. They discovered two patients dead. Their deaths had gone unrecognized. They saw patients who were on the floors. They saw urine bags that were full to bursting. They were weak. And this just general disorder, this abandonment that there–there was no one in charge. It was surreal. It was like they had come to liberate a concentration camp. This is what my source had told me. It was like a concentration camp. [ARSHY]   Even for a seasoned newspaperman like Derfel, this was shocking. [DERFEL]  I got up really early that morning. I–I–I didn’t sleep well the night before. It was bothering me. It was… I couldn’t the… What was described. You know, that it was a concentration camp. I–I–I just couldn’t sleep well. [ARSHY]   So Derfel hit the phones, trying to confirm the information he had received. He already suspected that COVID-19 was more pervasive in long-term care institutions than was being reported. [DERFEL]  There was a refrigerated truck that was parked outside this, um, long-term care center in Lasalle, which is again is close… very close to Dorval, that geographic area. And, uh, the West Island Health Authority… They weren’t answering my questions. “Why is this refrigerated truck there?” People began to speak out about the Herron. Loredana Mule, A former nurse, who had been volunteering there spoke to CityNews Montreal about the conditions she encountered. [LOREDANA MULE]  There was no staff. I was, uh, extremely surprised. Uh, nobody told me if they were… The staff didn’t come in because of the COVID. When I entered the rooms, uh, I discovered that their lunch trays were not even touched. Their mattresses were full of urine. Uh, the wheelchairs that they were sitting in were drenched with urine. I believed that they were sitting in urine and feces for about a day or so. When I got into my car, I still had the stench of urine and feces up my nose and I–I–And I… I just broke down. I just… I just couldn’t believe it. I cried. [ARSHY]   But that CityNews story didn’t break through the flood of the rest of the coronavirus coverage. As Derfel continued his research into Résidence Herron, he came across something strange. [DERFEL]  The official death toll from the documents that I received earlier. There was just.. There were two deaths. But I was speaking to people. They were saying, “No there are more than two deaths.” There were people, family members who were showing up in the parking lot. They were weren’t allowed to go in, but they could see the funeral vans leaving, you know, like every few hours. So one of the workers told me, look, there were 27 deaths just in the–in a short period of time. [ARSHY] Twenty-seven deaths. In normal times, an average of three to four people a month die at Résidence Herron. Twenty-seven people dying over two weeks was extraordinary. The local health authority wasn’t being transparent and they wouldn’t confirm Derfel’s reporting. So, after talking to his editors, he decided to run with the story that he had. On April 11, they published the story on the Montreal Gazette website, and it hit the province like a bomb. The mass death. The concentration-camp-like conditions. And the desertion. [DERFEL]  This is what was so troubling to so many people, even across the country, that workers there would abandon that facility in droves, that they would turn their backs on the elderly residents. [ARSHY] Premier François Legault had been planning to take a day off from his daily press briefings that Saturday. [DERFEL]  And then what happened is, shortly before 1:00 p.m., he tweeted that, no, he wasn’t taking his day off. He was going to address the Herron. So at this point, I was… I–I knew that, uh, I simultaneously felt somewhat validated in my reporting. But I was also really scared because I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to address the–the whole province and indirectly the whole country. And he was gonna say that, you know, the Montreal Gazette got it wrong, that it’s not 27 deaths. That it was, like, grossly inaccurate; that there was like three or four deaths. [FRANÇOIS LEGAULT] Good afternoon. I’m here because of what we learned last night about a situation in a private senior residence in, uh, the west of Montreal. Yesterday evening at 8:00, we learned that, since March 13, there’s been 31 deaths at Résidence Herron. [ARSHY] Thirty-one deaths. Aaron Derfel had undercounted. [DERFEL] He said there were 31 deaths. I felt somewhat validated, but at same time I felt sick in the pit of my stomach that I–I just knew how–how horrific was–this was. [ARSHY] Right now, there are numerous investigations underway, trying to piece together what happened at Résidence Herron, how the conditions got so bad and why so many residents died of COVID-19. [DERFEL] So there’s the police investigation. There’s now a coroner’s inquiry. There is a public health probe. There is a special inspector who’s gone in and three professional orders: the Quebec College of Physicians, the Order of Nurses and the Order of Auxiliary Nurses. They are also carrying out a separate investigation now into the Herron, which is private, a privately run facility. But a publicly-run one in the center of Montreal, the Institut de gériatrie de Montréal. [ARSHY] There’s still a lot we don’t know. But here’s what you have to understand about Résidence Herron. First, there’s the owners. The Herron is owned by the Katasa Groupe, a for-profit company that owns properties in Quebec and Ontario, including six retirement homes. And it turns out that its president, Samir Chowieri, has a criminal past and alleged ties to organized crime. In the 1980s, he was convicted of drug trafficking, as well as fraud, related to a cheese-smuggling ring. In the 1990s, he was investigated by the RCMP and the CRA for allegedly using a company of his for money laundering, but charges were never laid. He was then charged, and pled guilty, to tax evasion a few years later. And in 2006, Chowieri and a business partner bought an office building in Gatineau for $1 from a man accused by the Charbonneau Commission of being a front for Vito Rizzuto. Yes, that Vito Rizzuto. If you want to work in a long-term care home in Quebec, you have to pass a criminal background check. But when Samir Chowieri’s company purchased a long-term care home, the authorities found nothing. He’d been pardoned and his record had been wiped clean a year earlier. Then, there’s what took place before the pandemic: Back in 2016, Résidence Herron nearly doubled its capacity. Soon, the home was being investigated by the Quebec Ombudsman and was issued a warning that it may not have enough trained staff. Like many long-term care homes across the country, turnover was high. The work is difficult and wages are low. And then there’s what happened when the novel coronavirus did arrive. Two related disasters took place. The virus was allowed to spread through the facility and, at the end of the month, the staff largely abandoned the residence. Throughout March, as Quebec implemented social distancing measures, the common cafeteria at Herron remained open and residents were still allowed to mingle. Workers said that they weren’t given the protective equipment to do their jobs safely and prevent the virus from spreading, undetected. On March 27th, a man from Résidence Herron was rushed to the hospital. He had died of COVID-19, and that news sent a panic throughout the facility. Seven staff quit that day. They’ve all since tested positive. The next day, two more residents died, and more staff quit. That was the same day Norma Christie was left in her wheelchair. And the next day, March 29th, public health workers and police arrived and found the residents abandoned, malnourished and dehydrated. That day, the local public health authority took over Résidence Herron and put it under trusteeship. Now remember, this is still thirteen days before the Gazette broke the story about what happened there, eliciting an expression of utter surprise from Premier François Legault. [DERFEL] So after my initial story came out, and after the health minister’s press conference, they went in and then they said it was only that night that they felt that there were 31 deaths and, uh, and they were blaming the private owners for withholding this. And then once I got the death records, I realized, “No, this is not true. This can’t be possible. These deaths were occurring under the watch of the government, right? Under the watch of the West Island health authority. [ARSHY] Most of the deaths happened after the public health authority had placed Résidence Herron under trusteeship. The owners and the government fought bitterly during those crucial days. [DERFEL] There was a feud going on between the West Island health authority and the owners. They were accusing each other of mismanaging. And what had happened was that the residents were being neglected, you know? They were being neglected. [ARSHY] Derfel learned something else. When health care workers–who were volunteering to fill in for Herron’s absent staff–arrived, they got some very odd instructions.   [DERFEL] And this is something that I had–I–I haven’t, uh, reported. I don’t mind sharing it with the Canadaland audience. They were showing up, uh, with all their personal protective equipment. So that–that meant with the gloves, with, uh, the gowns, the, uh, N95 mask and the facial shield. And then they got, like, a nasty email from [scoffing chuckle] the director of professional services saying, you know, “No, no. You don’t go in with all this stuff, because you’re going to you’re going to freak out the staff who are already there.” You know, the staff who are underequipped, basically, who got infected and who then spread the coronavirus to the patients. [ARSHY] And then, confronted with the fact that most of the deaths took place after Herron had already been put under trusteeship… Quebec’s response seems redundant. [DERFEL]  And the minister said, ”Oh, yes, yes, we’re appointing a special inspector. This is like the third thing that they were doing. But then she said in French, she used the word “compenateur.”  So then, a compenateur in French is basically one step short of a “trustee.” So what the government had done is appointed a trustee to oversee the trustees of the Herrod,   OUTRO [ARSHY] So who do we blame for the deaths in Résidence Herron, for the horrific conditions that the residents were left to endure? The first instinct will be to blame the workers who left their posts. But these people were overworked and underpaid. And serious questions have been raised about whether or not they were even given the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. And then there’s the owners and the public health authority. But here’s the thing. Thirty-three people died at Herron. But it’s not the hardest hit long-term care facility in Quebec. Not by a long shot. There are at least nine long-term care homes in Canada where more people have been killed by COVID-19 than at the Herron. In one facility in Laval, Quebec, 78 people have died. What’s happened at Herron is a terrible betrayal of the people who lived there. And it’s far from the only one. Across the country, the deaths in long-term care are piling up. This is systemic. This is a failure of epic proportions. It just speaks to our failure as a society to care for and provide for our elderly. It’s a gross shame on our country. END CREDITS [ARSHY] That’s your episode of Commons for the week. This episode relied on reporting done by Aaron Derfel and Paul Cherry of the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada’s Enquête, Alyssia Rubertucci of CityNews Montreal, Nora Loreto, and many, many others. We’ll be bringing you more stories about long-term care in the coming days. If you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please get in touch. You can tweet us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by myself and Jordan Cornish. Our managing editor is Andrea Schmidt. Our new art for this season is by Michael DeForge and our music is by Nathan Burley. Just want to shout out our old managing editor, Kevin Sexton. Kevin was involved in making this show right from the get-go, and we wouldn’t be where it was without him. So, thank you so much, Kevin. If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND. I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
December 5, 2017
Invisible Victims: The Quest for Police Accountability
"It was bad enough that I had lost my daughter. But the interaction with the police was even worse." A miniseries on policing.
December 19, 2017
Throwing Shade at 2017: A Political Awards Show
We look back on some notably weird political moments of 2017 and collectively cringe.
January 8, 2018
Unknown Road: Inside Immigration Detention
Each year, thousands of people are indefinitely jailed in prisons without any criminal charges. Babou was one of them.  
January 22, 2018
Our Mis(education): the Erasure of Blackness in Canadian Schools
"Only a few decades after slavery was abolished, you already had, in textbooks in Ontario, the removal of references of history of slavery in Canada, but still many examples of realities of slavery in the United States. This idea of identifying racism as an American phenomenon is an important part of how Canadian racism articulates itself."
February 12, 2018
Finding A Fix: Our Opioid Overdose Crisis
“I tried to count up the amount of people that I knew who had died from overdose. I got to fifty, and I just had to stop. You get used to it. It’s like it becomes normal.”
February 27, 2018
Unconstitutional Solitude
Part one of a two-part series in which we explore the conditions and consequences of solitary confinement use in Canada.
March 12, 2018
Stories From Solitude
Two stories take us inside solitary confinement cells across Canada.
March 27, 2018
Canadian History X
As a teen, Elisa Hategan joined Canada's most notorious and well-organized white supremacist group, the Heritage Front. What can we learn from the past about how white supremacists operate today? And what do we do about all these Nazis?
April 9, 2018
The All-White Jury In Canada
There's a simple legal mechanism that allows lawyers to whitewash juries. A new bill proposes getting rid of it, but some lawyers are saying that will make things worse. We look back to how we got here.
April 24, 2018
Life In Canada Without Clean Water
Canada has 20 per cent of the world's freshwater and yet some Indigenous communities across the country have not had clean drinking water for decades.
May 7, 2018
What Do Peacekeepers Actually Do?
The Liberal government announced that it would be sending around 200 troops to assist in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. But what does "peacekeeping" look like today and what do peacekeepers actually do?
May 22, 2018
Canada Is Not Racist… According To The Stats
If you look at the stats, Canada has a low incidence of hate crimes, but the numbers that we rely on to tell us if we're racist or not are wrong.
June 5, 2018
What The Hell Is A Fairness Letter?
We speak to someone who might not be let into Canada for trying to bring democracy to Syria.
June 19, 2018
CORRUPTION #1 – The Most Crime-Ridden Neighbourhood In Canada
This season, Commons will be focusing on stories at the intersection of money, influence and politics in Canada. In this episode, we take you to what may be Canada’s most criminal neighbourhood — Toronto’s financial district.
October 2, 2018
CORRUPTION #2 – How Vancouver Became a Money Laundering Paradise
For years, people could walk into Vancouver-area casinos with tens of thousands of dollars of suspicious cash and walk out with clean money, no questions asked. That money may be fuelling the city's housing crisis and opiate epidemic.
October 16, 2018
CORRUPTION #3 – The Trouble With Paradise: How Canadians Built The Offshore World
The Panama Papers revealed to the world just how deeply enmeshed tax havens are in the global economy. And for 100 years, Canadian banks, businessmen and politicians have worked to build that offshore system, alongside crooks, fraudsters and corrupt officials.
October 30, 2018
CORRUPTION #4 – Papa Pump and the Small Town Shakedown
In the eleven years that Marolyn Morrison was the mayor of Caledon, Ontario, she faced down deep-pocketed developers, mafia enforcers and corrupt federal officials. When millions of dollars are at stake, things get heated.
November 13, 2018
CORRUPTION #5 – The King of Cabbagetown
For two decades, he's controlled public institutions and bragged about his connections to organized crime. So who exactly is the King of Cabbagetown?
November 27, 2018
CORRUPTION #6 – Charlottetown’s Web
It might be small, but it when it comes to graft, Prince Edward Island plays in the big leagues. Inside PEI’s long, strange attempt to become Canada’s online gambling hub.
December 11, 2018
CORRUPTION #7 – The Only Canadian Imprisoned For Insider Trading
One of Canada's most notorious white-collar criminals speaks about his crimes.
January 8, 2019
CORRUPTION #8 – Hockey’s Hall of Shame
Canada is hockey crazy. But at the heart of the sport is a system of unpaid labour that scars some boys for life. And the teams and leagues are doing whatever it takes to make sure things stay exactly the way they are.
January 22, 2019
CORRUPTION #9 – Victoria’s Secrets
Tens of thousands of dollars in suits, luggage, magazines and mustard. An epic booze heist from the legislature. An undercover legislator exposing corruption. And a wood-splitter that’s transfixed a province.
February 5, 2019
CORRUPTION #10 – The Canadian Company Accused of Using Slaves Today
Canadian companies have committed all kinds of wrongdoing abroad. But this is on a different level. One Vancouver-based company has been accused by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch of using slaves to build a mine with one of the world’s most oppressive governments.
February 19, 2019
Introducing Our New Season: CRUDE
Canada was built on oil.
March 28, 2019
CRUDE #1 – Smell This Town
If you don’t understand oil, you can’t understand Canada. We take you to a place unlike anywhere else in the world, where the booms and busts all began. And find out why just a short distance away, children grow up afraid of the very air they breathe.
April 2, 2019
CRUDE #2 – Bombs, Blood & the Battle of Trickle Creek
A family poisoned in their homes. Bombs going off in the night. Shots fired and inside jobs. The story of Wiebo Ludwig is There Will Be Blood come to life. So was he a man of faith facing down the full might of Big Oil? Or a terrorist with blood on his hands?
April 16, 2019
CRUDE #3 – Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark
The Alberta oil sands. It’s a cold patch of land (which we once almost nuked into oblivion) that’s become Canada’s economic engine. Governments have fought over it for decades. And now it’s one of the most controversial places on the planet. Will it finally tear our politics apart?
April 30, 2019
CRUDE #4 – Orphan Wells: Citizen Con
What happens when the oil wells run dry? Environmental damage, government bailouts and a scheme that some are comparing to the subprime mortgage crisis. And all of this is just the beginning.
May 14, 2019
CRUDE #5 – A Town, Annihilated
The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster was a calamity like we’ve never seen before. The families of the victims never got justice. But the conditions that made it possible have barely changed. And the next time could be far worse.
May 28, 2019
CRUDE #6 – The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea
An unspeakable tragedy occurs off the coast of Newfoundland. But this isn’t just a story about a nautical disaster. It’s about what happens when a poor province finds immense riches just within reach. And how the promise of oil wealth can twist history around itself.
June 11, 2019
CRUDE #7 – The Billionaire Plot to Destroy Alberta’s Economy is Totally Real!
Has Canada been a casualty of a nefarious campaign by foreign-funded radicals to landlock our country’s energy resources? Is Big Oil the victim of a vast international conspiracy? Naaaah. But there is, of course, another conspiracy afoot.
June 25, 2019
Introducing Wag The Doug
Over the past few weeks, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was booed at the Raptors' victory parade, demoted a bunch of star members of his Cabinet amid sagging poll numbers and lost his Chief of Staff, who got caught up in a nepotism scandal.  Are we witnessing the downfall of a government, or is this just another month in Ontario? 
July 8, 2019
CRUDE #8 – Spies, Lies and Private Eyes
Ever get the feeling someone is watching you? If you’ve been to an environmental protest recently, you might be right. Private intelligence firms, the RCMP and even Canada’s spies have all been caught collecting information on everyday Canadians speaking out against the oil industry.
July 23, 2019
CRUDE #9 – Tar Teck: The Final Frontier
Teck Resources just got approval to build the largest tar sands operation ever. The Frontier mine would have serious and permanent consequences for the local environment, Indigenous peoples and the global climate. So why haven’t you ever heard about it?
August 6, 2019
CRUDE #10 – The Apocalypse is Now
Canoe-borne bandits strike an underwater town. A new generation of wealthy lobstermen is minted. An island disappears. And hellfire engulfs a highway jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive. Just another normal day amidst Canada’s climate catastrophe. 
August 20, 2019
Our New Season: DYNASTIES
Stories about the rich and powerful families who run Canada.
September 11, 2019
DYNASTIES #1 – The Stronachs
Canada is a country ruled by dynasties — political, commercial and criminal. In the first episode of our new series, we bring you the story of an eccentric, billionaire patriarch; his famous, charismatic daughter; a fire-breathing monument the size of the Statue of Liberty; and the battle over one of Canada’s great business empires.
September 17, 2019
DYNASTIES #2 – The Irvings
For almost a century, the Irving family has run New Brunswick like a personal fiefdom. They own the newspapers, the industry, and, according to some, even the government. So how does a single family come to so thoroughly dominate an entire province? And what happens when that family starts to fracture and split apart at the seams?
October 1, 2019
DYNASTIES #3 – The Fords
They call themselves the Canadian Kennedys. And they’re one of the most famous political dynasties to ever exist in this country. But the rise of the Ford family has been marred by violence and self-destruction at almost every turn. The story of the Fords is tragic — for them, for everyone who falls into their orbit, and for the people of Toronto.
October 15, 2019
COMMONS Needs Your Help
Canada is a big, weird, and complicated place. We want to keep telling you these stories, but we need your help.
October 29, 2019
DYNASTIES #4 – The Rizzutos
The Rizzutos are Canada’s first family of crime. For decades, they dominated Montreal’s underworld with an iron fist. With the help of corrupt politicians and police officers, the Rizzutos built one of the most fearsome and lucrative criminal enterprises this country has ever seen. Their reign was long and bloody. But their fall was even more gruesome.
November 12, 2019
DYNASTIES #5 – The Sahotas
The Sahotas are Vancouver’s most notorious slumlords. For decades they’ve let their buildings rot, leaving their tenants to live in filth and desolation. But the Sahotas are not like any other dynasty you’ve ever heard of. Their story is far stranger, and far darker, than anything you can imagine.
November 27, 2019
DYNASTIES #6 – The Desmarais
The Desmarais family is by far the most influential Canadian dynasty of the last half-century. But if you don’t live in Quebec, chances are you haven’t even heard of them. Paul Desmarais had Prime Ministers and Premiers in his pocket and billions of dollars at his disposal. He wasn’t just a Laurentian elite; he was the Laurentian emperor.
December 11, 2019
DYNASTIES #7 – The Olands
For 150 years, the Olands have been one of Canada’s most prominent brewing dynasties, the makers of Moosehead Beer. But in the last decade, they’ve made the news for much darker reasons. Richard Oland was murdered in 2011. And police and prosecutors believe that he was killed by his only son.
January 8, 2020
DYNASTIES #8 – The Regans
Gerald Regan was the premier of Nova Scotia, the founder of a powerful political dynasty, and one of the most prolific sexual predators in Canadian political history. Even after his death last November, few in the establishment are willing to recognize, let alone reckon with, his crimes.
January 22, 2020
DYNASTIES #9 – The Harts
The Harts are Canada’s first family of professional wrestling and one of the most famous dynasties the country has ever produced. And sure, wrestling is scripted. But what happens when reality begins to invade that fiction? The story of the Harts is one of triumph and tragedy that transcends the world of pro wrestling.
February 5, 2020
Introducing: Cool Mules
A new investigative series about the cocaine smuggling ring inside Vice Media.
March 1, 2020
Our New Season: RADICALS
Our new season is about the people who go to extreme lengths for what they believe in.
March 12, 2020
RADICALS #1 – Nazi Island in the Sun
It’s one of the most audacious plots in North American history. Turn a Caribbean island nation into a criminal state — then use the money to fund Neo-Nazis and Klansmen across Canada, the US and Europe. The scariest part? They almost pulled it off.
March 18, 2020
RADICALS #2 – They Buried Her Heart at Wounded Knee
There have been books and songs and plays written about Anna Mae Aquash. But she was no folk hero — she was flesh and blood. A young Mi'kmaq woman who took up arms against the United States government, Anna Mae was a revolutionary. But when she was found murdered in the South Dakotan countryside, it tore her movement apart. It took thirty years to find out who pulled the trigger. But that’s not the same thing as knowing who’s responsible for her murder.
April 1, 2020
RADICALS #3 – The Last Pandemic
It began as a mysterious disease from a far off place. It turned into the deadliest plague humanity has faced since the Black Death. AIDS has ravaged and reshaped us in so many ways. But in Canada, the battle against AIDS wasn’t just a fight against a virus. It was a fight against a system that didn’t care if some people lived or died.
April 15, 2020
An emergency season: PANDEMIC
A new season of COMMONS
April 27, 2020
PANDEMIC #1 – 33 Dead in Dorval
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.
April 29, 2020
PANDEMIC #2 – When the Plague Came
Why did Commons drop everything and focus in on long-term care? Because the vast majority of deaths are happening in those homes. Because we should have known that was going to be the case, but we let it happen anyways. And because the level of suffering, isolation and trauma happening in long-term care today is almost too much for us to face up to.
May 2, 2020
PANDEMIC #3 – McKenzie Towne
The McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre has experienced the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta. But some people say that their loved ones were killed by neglect at McKenzie Towne long before the pandemic even began.
May 6, 2020
PANDEMIC #4 – Ontario Reaps its Dividends
Over 1700 Ontarians have already been killed by COVID-19. And the vast majority of them died in long-term care. But if you live in a private, for-profit home, you’re much more likely to die from this virus. The for-profit long-term care industry is politically powerful and deeply entrenched. Is this their moment of reckoning?
May 13, 2020
PANDEMIC #5 – Shirley and Tracy
Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them.
May 20, 2020
PANDEMIC #6 – Northwood
Over the last two months, Nova Scotians have endured tragedy upon tragedy. The worst mass murder in modern Canadian history. A helicopter crash and the death of a Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada.
May 27, 2020
PANDEMIC #7 – The Frontline
Long-term care workers are in the vanguard in the war against COVID-19. They’re not the kinds of workers who get movies or TV shows made about them. In fact, their stories are rarely told. But not only are they battling heroically against this pandemic. They’re fighting for recognition and respect within a system built to marginalize them.
June 3, 2020
BONUS: The Honest Fakery of Wrestling
Wrestling is very real and Stampede Wrestling helped build World Wrestling Entertainment. Damian Abraham, host and creator of The Wrestlers, explains in this week's bonus COMMONS episode.
June 10, 2020
PANDEMIC #8 – Hunger Strike
Innis Ingram’s mother is his hero. But today, she’s living in one of the worst hit long-term care homes in Ontario. She has a terminal illness. Dozens and dozens of people around her have died, including her friend and roommate. And she’s had minimal human contact for three months. But even though he can’t be there with her, Innis is determined to get her the care she needs.
June 17, 2020
PANDEMIC #9 – Mend the World
After a stroke left him locked in his own body, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana has found ways to lead an incredibly full life. Then the pandemic came. It swept through Quebec, leaving a trail of devastation. Today, Rabbi Cahana is one of the thousands of Quebeckers left stranded in the middle of one of the worst disasters in modern Canadian history.
June 24, 2020
PANDEMIC #10 – Burn It Down
Jonathan Marchand is one of the thousands of young disabled people living in long-term care. But Marchand doesn’t want to fix the system. He doesn’t think it can be reformed. Marchand is an abolitionist. For a century and a half, Canada has hidden away disabled people in institutions where they were neglected and abused. Is long-term care just the latest incarnation of this dark history?
July 8, 2020
PANDEMIC #11 – It Didn’t Have To Be Like This
Four months after the first outbreak in a Canadian nursing home, over 7000 long-term residents have died of COVID-19. But if you look at the news or social media or our political debates, it seems like we’ve already moved on. Maybe that’s because it feels like this kind of tragedy was inevitable during a pandemic. It wasn’t. And we know that because in some places in Canada, politicians and public health officials made decisions that saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
July 22, 2020
PANDEMIC #12 – The Most Dangerous Story
In the final episode in our series about the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis in long-term care, we’re going to tell you a different kind of story. A story of hope. About how the people we treat as disposable, can have lives of joy and dignity. And about one place where they were given exactly that.
August 5, 2020
Introducing our new season…
Stories about the power the police wield in Canada, and about the lengths they’re willing to go to hold on to it.
October 7, 2020
THE POLICE #1 – Julian Fantino
Julian Fantino may be the most famous cop in Canadian history, but during his rise, people critical of the police had a way of finding themselves in the crosshairs.
October 14, 2020
We Need Your Support
We want to keep doing this work. So this week we’re reflecting on the year behind us and talking about our goals for the future.
October 20, 2020
THE POLICE #2 – The Secret History of the RCMP
The RCMP is one of the most famous police forces in the world — the red serge and stetson hat are practically synonymous with Canada. But that image obscures the profound power the Mounties have held throughout Canadian history. And the dark legacy of ethnic cleansing and genocide at their core.
October 28, 2020
THE POLICE #3 – Dirty Tricks
He called himself the General. And he was at the heart of the RCMP's biggest scandal.
November 11, 2020
THE POLICE #4 – Starlight Tours
Thirty years later, we know some of what happened to Neil Stonechild. But we still don’t have justice. 
November 25, 2020
THE POLICE #5 – Toronto’s Finest
A Toronto police officer shoots and kills two Black men and is accused of beating another, all within a five-year span. He’s never found guilty of committing a crime. And he continues to rise through the ranks.   
December 9, 2020
THE POLICE #6 – Who Killed Myles Gray?
Myles Gray was an unarmed man who died after seven Vancouver police officers beat him mercilessly. Half a decade after he died, not only does his family not have justice, they don’t even know the names of the people who killed him.
December 23, 2020
THE POLICE #7 – The G20: Conspiracy
In the first of a two-part series on the G20, two mysterious strangers start volunteering with activist networks in southern Ontario. It’s all part of one of the biggest undercover police operations in Canadian history
January 13, 2021
THE POLICE #8 – The G20: Fortress Toronto
When John and Susan Pruyn came to Toronto, they were hoping to protest against the G20 and then spend some time with their daughter. Instead, they would be caught up in a whirlwind of police misconduct with few precedents in Canadian history.
January 27, 2021
THE POLICE #9 – Northern Patrol
For three decades, much of Northern Ontario has been engaged in an unprecedented experiment in policing. It’s called the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service. And the idea is simple: the old, colonial cops shouldn’t be policing Indigenous territory. Instead, Indigenous people should police themselves.
February 10, 2021
THE POLICE #10 – Portapique
Almost a year after the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history, Nova Scotians are still in the dark about what exactly happened. A gunman, dressed in an RCMP uniform, driving an RCMP cruiser killed 22 people.
February 24, 2021
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