12/11/2013 07:12 EST | Updated 02/10/2014 05:59 EST

Quebec launches investigation into retirement home death

Growing concerns over a long-term care centre on Montreal's South Shore and accusations of workers mistreating an elderly patient there have prompted Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert to act.

The minister announced today that he would be launching an investigation into the Centre d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD) St-Lambert-sur-le-Golf.

"I'm concerned about the quality of services in this nursing home," Hébert said. "The agency has assigned a special adviser to look at the quality of services in this nursing home and to report in the next weeks."

The investigation comes after two women were arrested following the recent death of an 87-year-old resident of CHSLD St-Lambert-sur-le-Golf.

Immacula Eugène, 51, and Marie-Margaret Pétimé, 46, were arrested Monday and are facing charges of drug trafficking, conspiracy and administering a noxious substance. Eugène is also facing a charge of armed assault.

The charges were laid several weeks after a video came to the attention of the police. The video — a secretly shot account of the alleged violence a patient endured in her room at the St-Lambert facility — was filmed in July but only landed in the hands of police in November.

The video had originally been turned over to the residence. Louis Plamondon, the president of the seniors’ rights group AQDR which has been tracking complaints at the CHSLD, said the residence failed to act on the tip.

Instead, Longueuil police said, it was a concerned resident who reported the video to officers.

"The person advised the police service that they believed this woman had been maltreated and that if we looked at certain videos, we could get proof of this happening. So immediately we got our search warrant, and we went to the home, and we seized the videos,” said Const. Mark David of Longueuil police.

David said he couldn’t describe the content of the videos because of the ongoing investigation, adding that police maintain that it's unclear if her death was caused by the alleged abuse.

Multiple complaints against CHSLD St-Lambert

Plamondon said that since the opening of the CHSLD St-Lambert-sur-le-Golf in 2011, he’s received 48 complaints of negligence from 25 families.

“Since the beginning, we have had a lot of problems with this establishment,” Plamondon says.

He said he’s helped some families install electronic surveillance systems in their loved ones’ rooms because of suspected abuse or negligence.

Plamondon says over the past two years, deaths — including several he called suspicious — went unreported to the coroner.

“Catastrophic. It’s a catastrophe,” he said of the state of affairs at the CHSLD St-Lambert.

However, Natalie Savoie of Group Savoie said officials there have collaborated fully with the police investigation. She said both of the accused in the case were let go several months ago.

Eugène and Pétimé have been in custody since Monday and are expected back in court Thursday morning for their bail hearing.