2 Montreal seniors' homes put under trusteeship after abuse allegations, streptococcus A outbreak

·3 min read
The Résidence Floralies in Montreal's LaSalle borough is one of two locations now under trusteeship. (CBC - image credit)
The Résidence Floralies in Montreal's LaSalle borough is one of two locations now under trusteeship. (CBC - image credit)

Two private seniors' residences in Montreal have been put under trusteeship after a streptococcus A outbreak left four dead and allegations of abuse surfaced, Quebec's Health Ministry has confirmed.

The ministry was alerted to "worrisome information concerning the administrative and clinical management" of these private long-term care homes, said spokesperson Marie-Claude Lacasse.

She said an investigation was launched on Aug. 18 into the situation at the Résidences Floralies locations in the Lachine and LaSalle boroughs.

Preliminary findings of that investigation revealed "the presence of major issues related to the quality and safety of care and services," she said.

The two facilities will be under provincial trusteeship for at least 180 days, with an option to extend, Lacasse said.

"Allegations of abuse at the Résidence Floralies have been brought to our attention," said Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, a spokesperson for the city's west end health authority, the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.

"Quickly, the teams mobilized so that the truth could be exposed and the people responsible could answer for their actions. We firmly enforce a zero tolerance policy toward elder abuse and such behaviour is not tolerated."

Until living conditions have improved, the CIUSSS has suspended admissions to the two establishments.

As of Aug. 29, six cases have been confirmed, including the deaths, said Bergeron-Gamache.

"We would first like to offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of these residents," she added.

Photographing evidence of neglect

Brigitte Lavoie has been photographing her sister at the Floralies residence in Lasalle over the past few months, capturing images of rashes, gangrene and a soiled bed.

"How we can treat a human like that?" She said.

Lavoie says she is extremely worried her sister will catch streptococcus A, especially with her wounds. She said there are not enough precautions being taken and she wants her sister to be moved out and into a place that provides proper care.

She complained to the home's administration back in February about the situation and she's had meetings, but nothing has changed, she said.

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Carole Guilbault lives next door to the Floralies in Lasalle and she said she is discouraged by the situation, considering what happened in the first five months of the pandemic.

"We witnessed the army, the police coming in to get the people that died just like they were garbage bags," she said.

"To bring that to the eyes of the government we need such events, unfortunately, to ring a bell and say 'hey what's going on? What do you do for people?'"

CIUSSS teams on site

Meanwhile, CIUSSS teams have been on site at the two locations, working to control the spread of streptococcus A.  Measures include thorough testing of staff, residents and even family members who visit regularly.

Preventative antibiotics have been administered, and the CIUSSS teams are working to ensure staff are adhering to COVID protocols — infection control measures that would work for strep A as well.

The government of Canada's website says strep A bacteria is usually associated with mild illnesses such as strep throat and sinus infections.

However, in rare cases, infection can cause more invasive and life-threatening conditions including pneumonia, flesh-eating disease and toxic shock syndrome.

Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital and an assistant professor at McGill University, said the bacteria is easily spread, especially in group living situations, but also easy to detect.

It can be invasive and cause serious illness, he said, and that's why aggressive measures are taken to stop the spread. Those preventative efforts are usually effective, he said.

"Thankfully, although group A streptococcus is a very aggressive organism, it has never been one to be terribly antibiotic resistant," said Oughton.