Coroners shocked doctors didn't intervene earlier at Herron

'I was worried that there was no proper preparation for testing, for disinfection, for the protocols,' Dr. Orly Hermon testified Wednesday at the coroner’s inquest.

The Montreal Gazette 3 minute read September 15, 2021

The inquest resumed Wednesday for its seventh day of hearings devoted to the Herron in Dorval, where 47 residents died in the spring of 2020.

“There were people who hadn’t eaten, there were people who hadn’t had a drink,” Kamel said. “How is it possible that the doctors, the three doctors, weren’t aware of this before the press (reports)?”

Dr. Orly Hermon, a family doctor responsible for a few dozen of the home’s patients, testified Wednesday. Much like earlier witnesses, she testified that problems with staffing at the Herron began long before the pandemic and that there was little organization at the home when the health crisis hit.

Hermon said she understood Kamel’s confusion, but that even she was shocked when the chaos at the residence was first reported by the Montreal Gazette.

She and the other doctors had stopped visiting the home in mid-March because of government directives, but were on call and working from a distance. Hermon said she went back to the home on April 11. She said she didn’t go back earlier because she was worried about a lack of equipment, staff getting sick and potentially bringing COVID-19 into the home.

“(Staffing) was a concern even back in, I would say, spring of 2019,” Hermon said at the beginning of her testimony. “The number of patients was increasing, but the number of nurses was not.”

Hermon said she grew concerned when the pandemic began in part because she knew the home had no director of care.

“I was worried that there was no proper preparation for testing, for disinfection, for the protocols,” she said.

Hermon said she inquired about personal protective equipment on March 23 and was told by the home’s then-director, Andrei Stanica, that he was actively trying to find it.

“He confirmed to me that there’s no equipment at all in the building,” Hermon said. “None at all.”

Echoing comments from earlier witnesses, Hermon said there were communication problems between the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal staff and the Herron staff once the former arrived on site.

She said hot and cold zones weren’t established at the home until after her return in mid-April, when residents were tested en masse. Dozens of residents had already died by that point.

The other doctors who served Herron residents alongside Hermon are scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon.

A nurse who testified in the morning said the home was lacking equipment at the start of the pandemic to the point that she had to take the vital signs of each resident without sterilizing the device between uses.

“Possibly we passed the COVID from one to the other — I don’t know,” she said.

She said volunteers like her did what they could, since there were very few workers at the Herron and they did not know the residents.

At several points in her testimony, the nurse described a chaotic situation at the home at the beginning of April 2020.

“It was very scary,” she said.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.