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How Can It Happen Here? The Shocking Deaths in Canada’s Long-Term Care Homes How Can It Happen Here? The Shocking Deaths in Canada’s Long-Term Care Homes
(2 months later)
Many Canadians, me included, were shocked this week as harrowing details mounted about Montreal’s Résidence Herron nursing home: Medical staff who had abandoned hungry and desperately ill patients. An owner with a long criminal history. Thirty-one dead in less than one month — five from confirmed cases of coronavirus.Many Canadians, me included, were shocked this week as harrowing details mounted about Montreal’s Résidence Herron nursing home: Medical staff who had abandoned hungry and desperately ill patients. An owner with a long criminal history. Thirty-one dead in less than one month — five from confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Across the country, nursing homes from British Columbia to Alberta to Ontario have been devastated by the lethal spread of the virus. This week, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, attributed about half of Canada’s deaths from coronavirus — at latest count, 1,193 — to long-term care homes.Across the country, nursing homes from British Columbia to Alberta to Ontario have been devastated by the lethal spread of the virus. This week, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, attributed about half of Canada’s deaths from coronavirus — at latest count, 1,193 — to long-term care homes.
The scale of deaths at these facilities has raised a difficult question: beyond the obvious insidiousness of a highly contagious virus, how has this been possible in Canada, a country with a vaunted universal health care system and a culture of humanism?The scale of deaths at these facilities has raised a difficult question: beyond the obvious insidiousness of a highly contagious virus, how has this been possible in Canada, a country with a vaunted universal health care system and a culture of humanism?
One person who is particularly qualified to answer that question is Dr. Susan Bartlett, a clinical psychologist and professor of medicine at McGill Medical School, who has counseled families about caring for their elderly parents and studies how to better help patients with inflammatory arthritis.One person who is particularly qualified to answer that question is Dr. Susan Bartlett, a clinical psychologist and professor of medicine at McGill Medical School, who has counseled families about caring for their elderly parents and studies how to better help patients with inflammatory arthritis.
I spoke with her while reporting on the Résidence Herron catastrophe and discovered that she had a personal interest in addition to her professional expertise: Her 94 year-old mother, Betty Bartlett, was a resident at the Herron in a western suburb of Montreal where 31 people died and which is now under police investigation amid accusations of gross negligence.I spoke with her while reporting on the Résidence Herron catastrophe and discovered that she had a personal interest in addition to her professional expertise: Her 94 year-old mother, Betty Bartlett, was a resident at the Herron in a western suburb of Montreal where 31 people died and which is now under police investigation amid accusations of gross negligence.
[Read: 31 Deaths: Toll at Quebec Nursing Home in Pandemic Reflects Global Phenomenon][Read: 31 Deaths: Toll at Quebec Nursing Home in Pandemic Reflects Global Phenomenon]
Dr. Bartlett told me that in November 2018, she returned from a five-day trip to Baltimore for American Thanksgiving to find her mother semi-comatose, dehydrated, wearing street clothes with a nightgown over her top and near death. She said no one had been in to check on her for days.Dr. Bartlett told me that in November 2018, she returned from a five-day trip to Baltimore for American Thanksgiving to find her mother semi-comatose, dehydrated, wearing street clothes with a nightgown over her top and near death. She said no one had been in to check on her for days.
Dr. Bartlett said nurses at the Herron tried to persuade her not to call an ambulance. Her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s but had been mobile only days before, was rushed to a hospital, where she eventually died of a stroke.Dr. Bartlett said nurses at the Herron tried to persuade her not to call an ambulance. Her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s but had been mobile only days before, was rushed to a hospital, where she eventually died of a stroke.
She told me the staff at Herron assured her the nurse responsible was fired and she decided not to take any further action. Like many Canadians, she said she had enormous deference for our health care system and, at the time, was loath to criticize it or blow a whistle. “It is profoundly troubling and deeply disturbing to me how broken this part of our health care system is and that I was unable to even protect my own mother from it,” she said.She told me the staff at Herron assured her the nurse responsible was fired and she decided not to take any further action. Like many Canadians, she said she had enormous deference for our health care system and, at the time, was loath to criticize it or blow a whistle. “It is profoundly troubling and deeply disturbing to me how broken this part of our health care system is and that I was unable to even protect my own mother from it,” she said.
Dr. Bartlett had done stringent due diligence before putting her mother, a daughter of Italian immigrants who loved to cook her special meatballs for her two granddaughters, at the Herron. She visited half a dozen nursing homes and interviewed Herron’s medical staff. She even consulted a specialist in placing seniors in homes. In the end, she decided on the Herron, which charged her mother 6,500 Canadian dollars a month. Dr. Bartlett was originally impressed by its diligent staff, and services that included a beauty salon.Dr. Bartlett had done stringent due diligence before putting her mother, a daughter of Italian immigrants who loved to cook her special meatballs for her two granddaughters, at the Herron. She visited half a dozen nursing homes and interviewed Herron’s medical staff. She even consulted a specialist in placing seniors in homes. In the end, she decided on the Herron, which charged her mother 6,500 Canadian dollars a month. Dr. Bartlett was originally impressed by its diligent staff, and services that included a beauty salon.
Today, Dr. Bartlett laments that even her extensive research failed to turn up the criminal record of the residence’s owner, Samir Chowieri, who in the 1980s served 15 months in prison for drug trafficking and had been convicted of fraud. One of his retirement homes was later the subject of a money-laundering investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “Had any of this criminality been exposed I would’ve never put my mom there,” she told me.Today, Dr. Bartlett laments that even her extensive research failed to turn up the criminal record of the residence’s owner, Samir Chowieri, who in the 1980s served 15 months in prison for drug trafficking and had been convicted of fraud. One of his retirement homes was later the subject of a money-laundering investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “Had any of this criminality been exposed I would’ve never put my mom there,” she told me.
But there was a reason for the lack of a paper trail: In 2014, Mr. Chowieri was successful in obtaining a pardon and having his criminal record expunged. The Quebec premier, François Legault, this week said it was “unacceptable” that a person convicted of serious crimes ended up running a home for the elderly, and asked why there were rigorous background checks for employees of long-term care facilities in Quebec but not for owners.But there was a reason for the lack of a paper trail: In 2014, Mr. Chowieri was successful in obtaining a pardon and having his criminal record expunged. The Quebec premier, François Legault, this week said it was “unacceptable” that a person convicted of serious crimes ended up running a home for the elderly, and asked why there were rigorous background checks for employees of long-term care facilities in Quebec but not for owners.
Dr. Bartlett said that while her mother’s care had initially been satisfactory, conditions at the residence deteriorated as the owners went on an aggressive cost-cutting spree and struggled to find qualified staff.Dr. Bartlett said that while her mother’s care had initially been satisfactory, conditions at the residence deteriorated as the owners went on an aggressive cost-cutting spree and struggled to find qualified staff.
She attributed the 31 recent deaths to the fact that, as Covid-19 spread and the residence was locked down, relatives of families were not able to visit and act as advocates for their loved ones. That in turn helped create a “perfect storm of neglect,” when overstretched and depleted health care workers, fearful of the virus and lacking sufficient protective equipment, fled.She attributed the 31 recent deaths to the fact that, as Covid-19 spread and the residence was locked down, relatives of families were not able to visit and act as advocates for their loved ones. That in turn helped create a “perfect storm of neglect,” when overstretched and depleted health care workers, fearful of the virus and lacking sufficient protective equipment, fled.
Yet Dr. Bartlett said it was hard to fathom that the body bags leaving the residence did not raise alarms sooner. “Why didn’t anyone scream at the top of their lungs?” she asked.Yet Dr. Bartlett said it was hard to fathom that the body bags leaving the residence did not raise alarms sooner. “Why didn’t anyone scream at the top of their lungs?” she asked.
Katasa, the company that owns the Herron, has denied negligence at the residence and blamed the regional health authority for not heeding its calls for help. In an email on Friday, it said a majority of the deaths occurred after the authority took the residency under trusteeship in late March.Katasa, the company that owns the Herron, has denied negligence at the residence and blamed the regional health authority for not heeding its calls for help. In an email on Friday, it said a majority of the deaths occurred after the authority took the residency under trusteeship in late March.
Multiple families who had relatives at the Herron told me in interviews that medical staff were far more attentive when family members were present in the building and could monitor things such as their parent’s medication and personal hygiene. Being there also allowed them to pick up some of the slack from overwhelmed workers.Multiple families who had relatives at the Herron told me in interviews that medical staff were far more attentive when family members were present in the building and could monitor things such as their parent’s medication and personal hygiene. Being there also allowed them to pick up some of the slack from overwhelmed workers.
Updated June 24, 2020
Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases. Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.
A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
Peter Wheeland had both of his parents at the Herron for several years until he recently moved his father, who suffered from vascular dementia, to another facility. His father died in April after contracting coronavirus. He told me that during the recent staff shortage, his mother, Connie Wheeland, 87, had received a food tray from a sympathetic neighbor who had since tested positive for Covid-19.Peter Wheeland had both of his parents at the Herron for several years until he recently moved his father, who suffered from vascular dementia, to another facility. His father died in April after contracting coronavirus. He told me that during the recent staff shortage, his mother, Connie Wheeland, 87, had received a food tray from a sympathetic neighbor who had since tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr. Wheeland said he had been so frustrated by the Herron’s refusal to test his mother for the virus — and so fearful for her health — that he took her out of the home last week.Mr. Wheeland said he had been so frustrated by the Herron’s refusal to test his mother for the virus — and so fearful for her health — that he took her out of the home last week.
“Leaving old people in these homes and cutting them off from families is like locking them in a cage with the disease and leaving them to die,” he said.“Leaving old people in these homes and cutting them off from families is like locking them in a cage with the disease and leaving them to die,” he said.
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