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Quebec coroner’s inquest hears of staff shortages at nursing home where dozens died during first wave


MONTREAL — A doctor told a Quebec coroner’s inquest today that a Montreal-area long-term care home where dozens of people died during the first wave of COVID-19 was extremely understaffed in the early days of the pandemic.

Dr. Nadine Larente said there were so few employees on site when she first arrived at Residence Herron on March 29 that she called her husband and three children to come help feed and change patients.

Larente, who is a director of professional care for the local health authority, said she was told some employees had stayed home because they were afraid, but most were following advice from the government’s health hotline to self-isolate for two weeks after coming into contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

Larente said her group did their best to care for residents, but they didn’t have enough masks for everyone or enough personal protective equipment to change it between patients.

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Coroner Gehane Kamel’s mandate is to investigate 53 deaths at six long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs in the province, and one seniors residence.

The portion of the hearings involving Herron began Tuesday after being suspended while prosecutors decided whether to pursue charges against the owners of the now-closed facility. Ultimately they decided the evidence did not meet the bar for criminal charges.