Health-care worker at Scarborough long-term care home dies from COVID-19
Published Thursday, April 16, 2020 6:50PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 17, 2020 7:50AM EDT
A longtime health-care worker at a Scarborough long-term care home has died due to COVID-19.
The worker, a woman in her 50s, worked as a personal support worker at Sienna Altamont Care Community, the Services Employees International Union Healthcare (SEIU) President Sharleen Stewart said.
“I am just so angered tonight because I really feel like this did not have to happen,” Stewart said.
She said she believes the worker was exposed to the virus at the home and that at least 18 other staff members have contracted the virus and are in self-isolation.
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the facility said there were 46 confirmed cases. Of those, five have died.
“She will be sadly missed by all of her colleagues and by all the residents she cared for. On behalf of the entire team at Sienna Senior Living, we extend our deepest condolences to her family, loved ones, and colleagues,” Altamont Care Community Centre said in a statement.
Stewart said workers at the facility had told her there had been no proper communication from the management.
She said proper personal protective equipment was not used, and infection controls were not put in place, adding that the management misinformed them that workers were using N95 masks.
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit the facility, Stewart said the union had to argue with the employer to implement measures.
“People deserve the right to be safe at work and know that they may be in a dangerous situation,” Stewart said.
She is demanding the government to make stronger directives to prevent more deaths in long-term care homes.
“(Existing) guidelines are killing people,” Stewart said.
In a statement, Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said the death is "saddenning."
"I am devastated by the loss of one our brave personal support workers to this terrible virus. My thoughts are with all of the front-line workers across Ontario who -- even now -- are giving so much to keep our loved ones safe," Fullerton said.
On Wednesday, the province introduced an enhanced plan to fight the spread of COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes, including more aggressive testing for residents and staff.
The province also issued an emergency order prohibiting long-term care staff from working at multiple facilities. It will take effect on April 22.
Ontario’s New Democrats (NDP) said the new measures are not good enough.
“We are concerned that there are huge loopholes in that emergency order. It still does not cover, for example, people who work for temp agencies that can be assigned to various homes,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said on Wednesday.
Ontario is reporting that 104 long-term care homes are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. As of Thursday, 530 long-term care staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Union asks province to take over two Ontario long-term care homes
In a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott, Stewart wrote members are concerned about the management of Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke and Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville, Ont., where at least 46 residents have died. The same company owns both facilities.
She wrote workers in those two homes have lost all confidence that “everything that can be done is being done to keep people safe and protected."
"For that reason, we are asking the province to use your powers to put these facilities in trusteeship and have the government take over administrative and operational control," Stewart wrote.
She wrote Quebec and British Columbia have used their authorities to assume control when management couldn't meet their obligations.
"We believe management at these two facilities have failed," Stewart wrote.
On Thursday, Eatonville Care Centre reported 31 COVID-19-related deaths. A total of 79 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 80 are still waiting for their test results.
Meanwhile, Anson Place Centre has 19 virus deaths as of Tuesday. Sixteen were within their long-term care residence, and three were from their retirement home.