Newly released recordings of phone calls to a Quebec government-run health line in 2020 reveal how desperate the owners of a long-term care home were during the pandemic’s first wave.
The pair of recordings from the owners of the Herron private care home, where 47 people died in spring 2020, were entered into evidence for the coroner’s inquest that is investigating COVID-19 deaths in the province.
In the recordings published Wednesday by La Presse, a panicked Samantha Chowieri and her husband call twice to the non-urgent health line, telling a nurse they are seeking a mass testing of residents.
They say they are not getting any response from regional health officials and make clear there is no staff left to feed, hydrate and care for residents.
On Tuesday, Radio-Canada reported on an email tabled into evidence at the inquiry revealing that cabinet ministers knew about the dire situation at the Herron care home at least 10 days earlier than they had previously acknowledged.
The March 29, 2020, email is labelled “URGENT” and warns the chief of staff to Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais that there were “almost no more staff” to care for Herron’s 154 residents.
The email was reportedly forwarded to Blais that same night, while the health minister at the time, Danielle McCann, received a briefing on the situation the following day. However, both Blais and McCann have stated publicly that they only learned about conditions at the Herron care home from reading a news article in the Montreal Gazette.
Opposition parties Wednesday renewed calls for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
© 2022 The Canadian Press