Montreal police, coroner investigating owner of seniors’ residence where 31 died in less than 1 month

Public health agency has taken charge of CHSLD Herron

Colin Harris · CBC News · Posted: Apr 12, 2020 12:56 PM ET | Last Updated: 6 hours ago

Montreal police have launched a criminal investigation into the owner of a private long-term care home in Dorval, a suburb in the city’s West Island. Thirty-one residents at the facility have died in less than one month.

It will take weeks or months before the investigation is complete, police say. Investigators were at the residence overnight, leaving Sunday morning and returning again Sunday afternoon.

“There’s a lot at stake when there are families that have lost their loved ones, that are concerned about what happened to them, so we really have to take the time,” said Insp. André Durocher, a spokesperson for the Montreal police (SPVM). 

He said investigators from the SPVM’s major crimes unit will collect various types of evidence: security camera footage, administrative documents and lists of personnel and residents. Then they will talk to family members, staff and residents to determine what happened and whether there will be criminal charges.

Quebec’s coroner’s office has also opened an investigation into the 31 deaths. It will determine the causes and circumstances of the deaths, and provide recommendations on how to prevent these types of deaths in the future.

The regional public health agency, known by its French acronym CIUSSS, has taken control of CHSLD Herron. Public health officials are now inspecting all private long-term care homes to ensure they are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak properly.

The Health Ministry said that when they arrived at the end of March, most staff had already abandoned the facility where about 150 seniors live, and that conditions were dire. It took a court order, issued Wednesday, to get the residents’ medical files.

The government says at least five of the deaths were linked to the novel coronavirus.

“I think it looks a lot like major negligence,” Premier François Legault said Saturday.

The facility is owned by Katasa Group, a company based in Gatineau, Que., owned by Samir Chowieri and his three daughters. The company runs seven elder-care facilities in the province.

In a statement, the company said its employees have made “extraordinary efforts” since the COVID-19 crisis began and their calls for help were ignored by the West Island CIUSSS.

“We hope that the attention aroused by our situation will lift the veil on the lack of support from the West Island CIUSSS for the teams working in CHSLDs,” the statement said.

An official with the company, who declined to speak on the record, contested the government’s version of events. The official also said public health directives requiring people to self-isolate had left the facility understaffed in the early days of the outbreak.

source : CBC News 

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