'When the personnel heard COVID, everyone left,' inquest hears

An employee at a seniors residence in Lévis said widespread panic set in once it was announced three residents were being tested for COVID-19.

Montreal Gazette 3 minute read April 13, 2021

A private seniors’ residence in Lévis was already dealing with high personnel turnover before the pandemic began, but once the first COVID-19 cases were suspected, staff left in droves.

According to Micheline Beaupré, who worked in administration at Manoir Liverpool at the time, a widespread panic immediately set in once it was announced three residents were being tested for the disease.

Beaupré testified Tuesday morning at the public coroner’s inquest into last spring’s deaths at Quebec’s long-term care centres and seniors’ residences.

“When the personnel heard the word COVID, everyone left. My God, people left,” Beaupré said. “People of a certain age left, others left because they were scared. … It was quite the day.”

The sweeping coroner’s inquest will probe what went wrong at several residences across the province during the pandemic’s first wave, but is focusing on the Manoir Liverpool this week.

More specifically, this week’s hearings will look into the death of Jacques Lévesque, a 60-year-old man who died at the residence while it was in the grips of a COVID-19 outbreak last April.

Lévesque did not contract the virus, but his family says they never found out exactly under what circumstances he died.

Once staff deserted the residence, including some who left mid-shift, Beaupré said she and others who worked in administration tried to make sure residents were still being taken care of. They bathed residents, fed them and gave them their medication.

Given how many employees left, Beaupré said, they had no choice but to start delaying services and try to do their best.

Coroner Géhane Kamel, overseeing the inquiry, then asked Beaupré not to sugarcoat the situation and to be honest about how bad things became. When the local health authority later took over the home, Kamel noted, there were only three employees left.

“People died,” Kamel said. “My only interest in being here is to understand what happened. Ultimately, if it was your father, or my father, or my brother or sister, we would want to know what happened. That’s why we’re here.”

In response, Beaupré admitted that, yes, the level of services offered to residents quickly deteriorated. That could include some going a week without being bathed.

“The personnel kept decreasing and decreasing,” she said. “That’s when it became critical.”

The inquiry is expected to hear from Lévesque’s family later Tuesday.

In the days leading to his death, the inquiry heard on Tuesday, Lévesque had expressed he felt he was being forgotten amid the staff shortages and crisis.

This story will be updated. 


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