Maison Herron Quebec senior homes

CHSLD Herron

An open letter from a CHSLD nurse to Premier Legault and Prime Minister Trudeau

Kristy-Lyn Kemp stepped back as a nurse to simply provide companionship to dying patients at Maison Herron. This week, while soldiers and celebrity athletes were being brought in to work at Quebec CHSLDs, she was asked to leave.

Dear Mr. Legault and Mr. Trudeau,

My name is Kristy-Lyn Kemp and I am Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who works at Maison Herron. I started working there as a Preposee aux Beneficiares (PAB) in June of 2018 and have been working as a nurse since I received my license. Throughout everything that has happened, I have not abandoned my post. I have seen, firsthand, the horror that has befallen that building. During the worst of the crisis, I was doing 16 and 18 hour shifts, because there was nobody else to take over when my 8 hour shift was supposed to end. I’ve given pills to 50+ residents on the second floor, all while keeping the doctors on speed dial and trying to ensure that the people who were declining could be transferred to the hospital if the family wished to do so. I was also making sure that those who were palliative received the necessary medications that they needed so that they could pass away without pain. I have seen honorary grandmothers and grandfathers breathe their last breaths, I’ve seen the reception area clogged with oxygen tanks, I’ve wished residents well when they were transferred to the hospital, making sure that they knew they were loved because I knew that the odds of my ever seeing them again were next to impossible. I stayed throughout this war because I love the residents like my own family. I stayed because it was the right thing to do. The only thing, really.

Since April 7, I have been going into Herron not as a nurse anymore, but as a companion. I was sitting with those who were well and keeping them company so that their morale didn’t continue to fall. I was sitting with those who were dying, holding their hand and letting them know that they are loved, because nobody should have to die alone. I was serving cups of soup to the residents who were having trouble swallowing, because I was worried that they were suffering from malnourishment and dehydration. Although I was no longer handing out pills or taking vital signs, I knew that I was making a difference, because the residents told me that I was. A dying lady squeezed my hand and said my name, with tears rolling down her cheeks. She knew that I was there because I loved her. So many residents would shed tears of joy when they saw me, because they were so happy to have someone familiar that they could spend time with and have a conversation. I was going into Herron for at least 4 hours (usually 5 or 6) almost every evening, and making the rounds, sitting and spending time with the residents. They told me that they really enjoyed these talks. Since the lockdown, they have been terribly lonely, and this aspect of their mental health has been neglected. We may be able to save people from this virus, but what of their loneliness?

I went into Herron at 16:30 on April 24and was told that the services that I have been providing since April 7 are no longer required. I was informed that things are now under control, but the residents are still on lockdown. They’re still confined to their room and are not allowed to have any visitors. In this regard, nothing has changed; they’re alone in their rooms and they are terribly lonely. I was also informed that I was late for my shift; that I was on the schedule from 15:00 to 23:00 as a nurse, and I had never agreed to that. I was never even approached about it. I was then told that because everywhere is so short-staffed, I was needed as a nurse and only as a nurse. There were, however, 5 nurses at the reception desk giving me this news. If they themselves were working on the floors, then we wouldn’t be as short.

There are several reasons why I do not want to work in the capacity of a nurse right now, the most important of which is mismanagement. There is no clear chain of command, and this presents a very dangerous situation if someone’s health takes a turn for the worse. The way that things are being managed at Herron right now is extremely disorganized, and I believe that such disorganization can lead to potential disaster when it comes to the outcome of a specific resident who is declining. It is absolutely wonderful that there is now staff at Herron, especially when comparing it to how short-staffed we were less than a month ago. That being said, I have seen, first hand, instances of behavior that can only be described as deplorable. Bullying, demeaning behavior has been directed at people who are there out of the goodness of their hearts because they genuinely want to help. Perhaps part of the crisis in staffing CHSLDs right now is directly related to this kind of behavior. People genuinely want to help out in any capacity that they can, and they’re being criticized, or being forced into working double shifts and increasing the chances that they might catch this virus because they’re so exhausted and stressed.

I never signed on with the CIUSSS, and they have been in the building since March 29. I received my most recent paycheck, from Herron management, on April 23. In a meeting on April 21 with the executive director of Herron, I was assured that I would be able to continue visiting residents and that it wouldn’t be a problem. He agreed with me that it was a vital component of their overall health, and then I find out three days later that my services as a visitor are no longer required, according to the CIUSSS. As far as I’m concerned, I still work for Herron, and I should still be allowed into the building, given the difference that the residents have told me that I’m making in their lives right now. My name tag has my name and position, but it also says “I give free hugs”. Prior to this virus and social distancing, the residents would hold out their arms when they saw me coming, because they wanted a hug. I have always firmly believed that hugs and love are just as vital as prescribed medications and treatments. If I didn’t believe that, then I never would have become a nurse. I care about the well-being of these residents; they have always been my primary concern, and I would genuinely like to continue to work at Herron in the capacity of a visitor and companion. What also has not been considered is that the residents are in mourning. They see the emptiness of the hallways, the locked doors and the fact that their neighbors’ name plates have been removed under their room number. I would like to be there for them, so that we don’t have to be alone, or to mourn alone. They are scared at all that is happening around them, and a regular visitor that they have known for almost two years would help keep that fear in check. We have all suffered a terrible tragedy, and I truly believe that another one may unfold by keeping someone like me from doing the important work of visiting residents and giving them some shred of hope in this now drastically different world. Loneliness can kill the elderly, and I’m trying to keep them alive with companionship, love, and respect.

This is not about pointing my finger at either the CIUSSS or Herron. As far as I’m concerned, those who are performing the investigations will look into that. My concern begins and ends with the residents. A good nurse advocates for those who do not have a voice, and there has never been a better time to speak up on their behalf.

Please let me back into Herron as a visitor. Please let me continue to give them hope.

Thank you very much for your time and attention to this matter.


Kristy-Lyn Kemp, LPN