‘It’s human life’: Woman with schizophrenia deteriorated after bed-bug infestation

A Moncton man is speaking out after his schizophrenic sister was left in her apartment for days without her caregivers and deteriorated so much that she’s now hospitalized in a catatonic state.

Paul Ouellet said his sister Lorette Ouellet, 62, has acute chronic schizophrenia. She spent more than a week in the apartment without care after a social worker told caregivers to stay away because of a bed-bug infestation. 

Several care providers usually stop by Lorette’s apartment during the week to bring meals, help clean the apartment, help her bathe and ensure she’s taking her medication.

But that all stopped for more than a week because of confusion over the response to the discovery of the bed bugs.

Crawling with bugs

“It’s my sister Lorette who informed me that there were bed bugs in her apartment and also not only in her bed, but she had them on her,” Ouellet said.

“She would tell me that she’s picking away at these bugs on her body and she’s putting them in a bottle.” 

Ouellet said he told the landlord, a social worker and the Department of Social Development after he found out about the bed-bug infestation on July 13.

It’s more than disturbing. It’s human life.– Paul Ouellet, brother

He said he was told by the social worker that Lorette needed to be removed from her apartment while the infestation was tackled and that the apartment would be sprayed in a few days.

But the brother said the apartment wasn’t sprayed for two weeks and Lorette was never removed.

“It was not sprayed until the 27th of July because of the failure of the Social Development [Department],” he said.

Meanwhile, according to Ouellet, the social worker told Lorette’s care providers that they could stop visiting Lorette because the apartment was being cleared of bed bugs.

Blaming Social Development

Paul Ouellet said his sister is now on the psychiatric ward at the Moncton Hospital. (Radio-Canada)

“The social worker had notified the employees and they were told, you know, ‘You don’t need to go in for the care because of the bugs in the apartment,’ but he never bothered to inform me or the [Community Mental Health Centre in Moncton],” Ouellet said.

Paul Ouellet said it was “most definitely” up to the Department of Social Development to help out his sister.

In an email to CBC News, the department said it would not comment on the specifics of any particular case because of privacy concerns but that it takes “the health and safety of all its clients extremely seriously.”

The email said the department isn’t responsible for removing its clients from infested apartments, unless the apartment is owned by the department.

‘Lamentable’ condition

Paul Ouellet called a mobile mental health unit after he learned about his sister’s deteriorating condition.

He said the nurse who went to the apartment and helped bring Lorette to the hospital described her condition as “lamentable.”

He said the nurse said if Lorette had stayed there for the night, she would not have made it.

“She was not surviving,” he said.

Lorette is now on the psychiatric ward at the Moncton Hospital. 

“She doesn’t want to eat and she’s just staring at you constantly — her eyes all glossy,” Ouellet said.

He said “disturbing” doesn’t even begin to describe what’s happened to his sister.

“It’s more than disturbing. It’s human life.”