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Officials too quick to blame COVID-19 for deaths at Montreal care home: witness

A card and flowers are shown outside Residence Herron, a long term care home in Montreal, Saturday, April 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (Photo: Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES)

MONTREAL — An auxiliary nurse told a coroner’s inquest today that health authorities were too quick to blame COVID-19 for deaths in a Montreal-area long-term care home when some of them were in fact caused by dehydration and malnourishment.

The assistant nurse who worked at Residence Herron says those responsible for the facility – whether management or public health officials – found it easier to cite COVID-19 than admit some residents died due to a lack of staffing.

The witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, also criticized staff who quit their jobs during the pandemic’s first wave when there was no one else to care for residents.

And she said managers with the regional health authority who came to assist provided contradictory instructions and were not at residents’ besides.

The witness also described a chaotic situation that lasted several days as authorities tried to hash out who was responsible for managing Herron at the end of March and beginning of April 2020.

The coroner’s mandate is to investigate 53 deaths at six long-term care homes and one seniors residence – including 47 at Herron – during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.