Two privately owned long-term care facilities that were placed under trusteeship amid allegations of poor care and mistreatment are now "stable," the head of the regional health board said on Friday.
But Najia Hachimi-Idrissi, the interim director of the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, the health board that took over the management of the Floralies Lachine and LaSalle care homes in September, acknowledged that officials could have stepped in sooner.
"In hindsight, we should have intervened, or intensified our interventions, earlier," she said at a news conference on Friday.
When the health board took over the management of the two facilities on Sept. 1, officials were faced with a "distressing situation," Hachimi-Idrissi said. According to an investigation published on Thursday, residents were dehydrated and showed signs of neglect and violence, including bruises.
"We had to respond quickly to major concerns voiced by the families and caregivers," she said.
Most of the problems stemmed from a lack of training, but some involved clear cases of more profound neglect, leading the health board to fire some employees and issue six disciplinary orders.
The investigation, conducted by Michel Delamarre, who recently retired from his position as CEO for the Quebec City regional health board, said there had been "abuse in all its forms," severe understaffing, management issues and a lack of contingency planning at the two facilities.
Sonia Bélanger, the Quebec minister responsible for seniors, said the situation was caused in part by a lack of co-ordination in the health network, which failed to respond to the deteriorating situation at the Floralies homes.
"As a minister and as a citizen, I was shaken to see what took place [there]," she said at a Montreal news conference Thursday.
Both care homes have since improved, Hachimi-Idrissi said.
"The situation has now been stable for some time and our seniors are receiving the care their health requires," she said.
"However, we recognize that there is still much to do in order to ensure that the efforts invested at these facilities over the past few months are sustained in the long term."
Meanwhile, the new managers of the Floralies residences said in a news release they had begun to take steps to improve the situation at the residences before the release of Delamarre's report.
The residences' management has been "completely renewed" and they have implemented a strategy to fill critical staffing roles.
"From the beginning of the investigation, we were committed to responding promptly to (Delamarre's) observations and recommendations," said Marie-Claude Ouellet, a spokesperson for the care homes' managers. "We have therefore co-operated fully in order to shed light on the situation and make the necessary adjustments."
The Floralies Lachine and LaSalle care homes were placed under temporary trusteeship after reports of neglect and mistreatment surfaced over the summer. A streptococcus A outbreak also led to the deaths of at least four residents by the end of August, and had lasted months before managers flagged it to health authorities.
Paul Brunet, head of the Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients, said he was skeptical of officials promising an end to mistreatment in care homes.
"I've heard a lot of ministers say 'this is over, it's not going to happen again, we're going to work and do everything we can' and unfortunately it still happens," he said.
Brunet said the standard of care in many care homes across the province is low — even if it doesn't descend to the same "horror show" level as the Floralies residences.
"A lot of care is not given to patients," he said, "and this was occurring even before COVID."