Quebec Premier François Legault has confirmed 31 people have died at a Montreal-area seniors’ residence since March 13 — five, so far, from COVID-19.
A sombre Legault, visibly pale as he spoke at the daily provincial news conference, cancelled a planned day off to deal with the fallout and share the information with the public.
Grim news has been emerging about the seniors’ residence in Dorval, in the West Island of Montreal, for a few days.
Legault said that on March 29, when public health officials first visited the private CHSLD — the term used for seniors’ residences in the province — “most of the staff had then deserted the residence.”
Public health authorities were not able to confirm the exact number of deaths until Friday evening because the Herron’s owner had refused to give them access to the residents’ files, Legault said.
Legault said he would be “prudent” while investigations were under way, but followed with a candid assessment.
“Honestly, I think a lot of negligence took place at the residence,” he said.
“I repeat, when the CIUSSS arrived on March 29, almost all the staff was gone,” he said, referring to the regional health authority, which is now running the home. “So I think it looks a lot like major negligence.”
Conditions at CHSLDs have been an issue for years.
A public health investigation is ongoing, and Legault said the province has also requested a police investigation.
The province is now following up at several other private CHSLDs that belong to the same owner, Legault said, and will verify conditions at all 40 private CHSLDs in the province immediately.
Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said she expects a report on those residences by the end of the day.