By Celeste McGovern
A shocking number of elderly citizens died in the first wave of COVID, and not always from the virus but from severe malnutrition and dehydration, and by protocols that used euthanasia drugs and “end-of -life pathways” as a first-line of treatment for any symptoms, according to a recent analysis published in the C2C Journal. Of all countries in the west, Canada was the deadliest place to be an at-risk long-term care home resident.
“At the end of May 2020, Canada was reporting that 81 percent of the country’s Covid-19 deaths took place in LTCFs [long-term care facilities],” writes Anna Farrow, executive director of the English-Speaking Catholic Council in the province of Quebec. “This compared to an average of 38 percent in the other 37 OECD countries. That proportion has fallen, but a December 2021 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information noted that LTCFs still accounted for 43 percent of Covid-19 deaths.”
That’s remarkably high considering that governments enforced stringent pandemic lockdown strategies and other COVID measures to protect the elderly and vulnerable. Why did they fail?
What killed Gran?
The Don’t Kill Granny campaign first emerged in England, in August 2020, when the city of Preston used it to augments its policy preventing mixing of households, writes Farrow. “‘Don’t kill your gran’ was quickly adopted by the U.K.’s then health minister, Matt Hancock, and used to encourage young people to limit their social interactions.”
So, then, why did the elderly die in such vast numbers especially in Canada, she asks. “What did kill Gran?”
We know that in the spring of 2020, nursing homes, where staff were already in short supply and overworked in Canada, care staff jumped ship in unprecedented numbers. Why stay and be overworked and underpaid in miserable conditions when there was supposed risk of catching a deadly infection?
“To make matters worse, lockdown policies barred family caregivers and close friends, who often provided daily support to their loved ones, from the facilities,” writes Farrow. “And not just physically, for family members often spent weeks unable even to contact their loved ones or staff.”
Starved and dehydrated
Canadians heard about it when the military were sent into elderly care homes in late April 2020. “To read Brigadier General C.J.J. Mialkowski’s report about the Ontario homes is to read a document that conveys in the precise, meticulous language of a soldier the horror the military personnel felt. It reads as dispatches from a new kind of battlefield,” Farrow sates.
“There were common themes across the five facilities: lack of permanent, trained, and coordinated staff; misuse of narcotics; shortage of supplies; inadequate nutrition and hydration of residents.”
And there were also the tragedies of “superspreader events” at New York nursing homes, facilitated by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, when 9,056 COVID-infected patients were transferred into the facilities, leading to some 15,000 deaths.
Lethal treatment protocols
Apart from the fact that many elderly people who died in nursing homes in the first wave of the COVID pandemic were actually starved and deprived of water to death, there were protocols put in place, apparently in other countries as well as Canada, to simply administer cocktails of lethal drugs to them if they showed COVID symptoms (which include a runny nose, headache, and fever) as a sort of triage to save the healthcare systems rather than the patients.
“They made us put them all on the respiratory-distress protocol…morphine, scopolamine, Ativan,” Sylvie Morin, an assistant chief nurse at a Quebec care home testified to an inquest about the use of the lethal cocktails.
“A respiratory distress protocol (RDP) may sound perfectly appropriate in the context of a SARS virus. After all, a small proportion of those who contract SARS-CoV-2 develop a form of pneumonia that can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome, which requires special attention and treatment,” writes Farrow. “But the RDP described by Sylvie Morin is not such a treatment.”
‘Come now, they’re not all going to die’
The respiratory drug cocktails are well-known to be lethal and it is “a fine balance between administering a dose that successfully manages the pain and agitation of a dying patient and one that actually causes death,” according to Farrow.
She spoke to a Montreal neurologist who said such drug protocols are used almost exclusively after consultation with a palliative-care team in end-of-life circumstances. “He said he found it hard to believe such a protocol would be a standing order.”
Michael Ferri, Chief of Psychiatry at Pembroke Regional Hospital in Ontario, said the respiratory distress protocol in palliative care was not surprising but the wide use of it as a protocol without oversight or accountability was “disturbing.”
Morin, the nurse at the Ontario care home, testified that in early March 2020, her unit leader was visibly agitated and said that if COVID-19 entered the nursing home it would empty the facility. “She had 250 death certificates [and] 250 forms for the respiratory distress protocol.”
Morin had said: “Come now, they’re not all going to die.”
But Morin came to believe that “it was all set up ahead of time.” Not all residents who were administered the protocol died, “but most did.”
‘A good death needs syringes’
Farrow points to evidence that these plans to use “population triage” including end-of-life drugs for the frail and elderly seemed to be in place not just in Canada but in many countries from “the very beginning of the pandemic” and they were intended as COVID-19 standard-of care treatment. She points to a creepy exchange at a virtual meeting in April 2020, between the U.K’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Luke Evans, a Conservative MP and physician.
“A good death needs three things. It needs equipment, it needs medication, and it needs staff to administer it,” said Evans “Do you have enough syringe drivers? Do you have enough medication, particularly midazolam and morphine?”
Hancock answered yes to both questions.
“The MP’s questions and the Health Minister’s ready response suggest that the U.K. government had already prepared to impose end-of-life protocols on patients who had been deemed too old or frail to receive treatment,” writes Farrow.
She points to other odd protocols too, like that of the first responders of Urgences-Santé, a Quebec ambulance service, who were instructed not to resuscitate those whose hearts had stopped “to protect the health system,” according to their director Pierre-Patrick Dupont.
It seems that death for the vulnerable and frail was the default position in many COVID health protocols. There is much to investigate in the “first wave” of deaths that politicians and health officials wielded like a club to terrify citizens into conforming to lockdown and other government COVID measures. Yet there are few in governments interested in investigating and holding those responsible for what appears to be massive medical murder and negligence to account.
There was much to be afraid of for the elderly in the pandemic, it seems, but the coronavirus was far from the top of the list.