Outaouais health authority takes control of private care home

One week after the findings of a damning report about La Victorienne, western Quebec’s health authority announced it is temporarily taking control over the Gatineau private care home.

Yves St-Onge, CEO of Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO), announced the decision in a statement Tuesday.

He said in French the act that governs health services gives him the power to appoint someone as a provisional administrator at the home, which cares for people living with intellectual and physical disabilities.

“We have questions about the … residence’s capacity to ensure the best quality of care and the safety of its residents,” the statement from CISSSO reads. 

Benoît Lauzon, who had Down syndrome, died at the Hull Hospital on Nov. 4, 2021, due to an error in medical dosage. 

A report by Quebec’s complaints and service quality commissioner found in the weeks leading up to his death, Lauzon suffered “organizational mistreatment by negligence” at the home. 

The commissioner said from September 2021 to June 2022 — one year after the residence opened — 11 reports had been filed by relatives of residents there.

At a news conference Tuesday, St-Onge said he’d received an equally damning report from the Quebec ombudsman, who visited the care home “unannounced” last June.

A man stands in front of reporters with microphones in front of him.
Yves St-Onge, CEO of CISSSO, announced on Tuesday that the health authority would be taking control over La Victorienne. (Radio-Canada)

“The difference is [that before] we supported, but we didn’t manage. Now, I have complete management over the organization,” he said.

St-Onge said the provisional administration period lasts for 120 days and he has the option to extend that to 210 days.

In a written statement to Radio-Canada, La Victorienne said it will fully co-operate with the new management team and CISSSO. 

“We are … the first to want to shed a light on the circumstances experienced at La Victorienne in 2021 and 2022,” the residence wrote in a French statement. 

La Victorienne said it also intends to request an investigation from the order of Quebec nurses and would also collaborate with that. 

A relief for grieving mother 

CISSSO’s decision comes as a relief to Benoît’s mother Christiane Latour. She was the first to denounce the mistreatment her son faced within the private residence.

A woman wearing glasses looks off-camera to a reporter holding a microphone.
Christiane Latour was the first to publicly denounce the mistreatment her son faced at the private residence. (Radio-Canada)

“I couldn’t be happier. It’s been almost two years, I’ve mourned not once, but twice. I’ve been worrying about the 58 users of La Victorienne for almost two years. Namely, ‘Are they being treated well? Are they doing better two years later?'” said Latour in French. 

“To know that they’re [in provisional administration] it does my mother’s heart good.” 

‘Things need to change’

Lionel Carmant, Quebec’s minister responsible for social services, called for changes in the wake of the news. In a French statement, Carmant said what he’s been hearing about the situation at La Victorienne is “unacceptable.” 

“We determined that too many doubts remain regarding the organization’s ability to ensure the safety of its users and to respect the highest quality standards of care,” the minister said in a statement.

“What we’re learning from various reports and articles in recent weeks is simply unacceptable. Things need to change,” he added. 

André Fortin, who represents Pontiac in Quebec’s legislature, said CISSSO’s decision was inevitable given the commissioner’s report.

“No complaints commissioner ever uses the term organizational mistreatment through negligence. And subsequently [when we learned there were other files where serious breaches occurred], it became the only possible solution for us,” he said in a French interview. 

However, Fortin said the matter is far from closed, adding he’d like to see the director of criminal and penal prosecutions take charge of the case.  

“Let’s get to the bottom of things, let’s ensure that the people who are responsible for this mistreatment are judged according to the laws we have in place. There is a law on mistreatment. I believe this is the number one test for this law,” Fortin said.

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