‘My mom died by herself’: COVID outbreaks keep grip on local care homes

Pat Pears was suffering from COVID-19 and all alone when she took her last breath Monday in her bed at Fred Douglas Lodge.

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Pat Pears was suffering from COVID-19 and all alone when she took her last breath Monday in her bed at Fred Douglas Lodge.

The 84-year-old mother of four was one of almost four dozen seniors at the Burrows Avenue facility who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days. The virus has swept through every unit in the Winnipeg facility, hitting both residents and staff members.

Two-and-a-half years into the pandemic, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said there are currently 30 outbreaks in facilities it oversees: 21 in personal care homes, eight in Winnipeg hospitals and the Riverview Health Centre, and one in St. Amant.

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Pat Pears was one of almost four dozen seniors at Fred Douglas Lodge who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days.

The WRHA said the earliest outbreak still active is at Tuxedo Village’s Unit 2 (Aug. 12); the most recent is Concordia Hospital’s N2E unit (Sept. 9).

Maples personal care home — site of one of the worst tragedies of the pandemic — is currently on the WRHA list.

From October 2020 to January 2021, 157 residents and 74 staff members were infected. Fifty-six residents died.

A spokesman for Revera Inc., the Ontario-based company which operates Maples, could not be reached for comment. Two other local Revera care homes (Beacon Hill Lodge and Poseidon) are also battling outbreaks.

The latest outbreak at Fred Douglas Lodge has resulted in the cancellation of regular visitations, but two family members (wearing masks and eye shields) can be there at end of life.

However, Pears’ son, Bill Muir, said he’s upset the residence didn’t call family members until after his mother had died.

He said the government isn’t doing enough to let the public know there are still coronavirus outbreaks and people are getting sick and dying.

“There are 35 people with COVID there (Fred Douglas). How come we’re not hearing about it?” Muir said Tuesday. “It’s like they’re sweeping things under the rug.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

COVID-19 has swept through every unit in the The Fred Douglas Lodge, hitting both residents and staff members.

“It’s a hell of a way to treat somebody at the end of life. My mom died by herself. And I think the cases are going to go up, not down.”

Fred Douglas Lodge chief executive officer Roslyn Garofalo said the facility has notified resident families on the issue. There were 35 cases Sept. 9, when an information letter was sent out, now there are 43.

Last week, the facility’s Willow unit, where Pears was a resident, had 25 positive cases.

“There are 29 seniors in that unit, so it’s almost the entire unit that got it,” Muir said.

Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, said she feels for seniors at Fred Douglas Lodge who are restricted from seeing loved ones or friends.

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Jan Legeros of Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba said she feels for seniors at Fred Douglas Lodge who are restricted from seeing loved ones or friends.

“How sad is it that after more than two years of pandemic… that at least one of the care homes, Fred Douglas, has to suspend visits either because of the size of the outbreak… or that they don’t have the staff to help to them?” Legeros said.

Legeros added there is one positive aspect compared to previous outbreaks.

“I know only what I heard (Sept. 8) and that is that outbreaks have far fewer tragic outcomes for persons who are fully vaccinated — and that’s because vaccinations work.”

Vulnerable seniors, and the staff who work to keep them safe, will once again be rolling up their sleeves for the bivalent vaccine, starting Sept. 13, Legeros said.

Meantime, Garofalo said staff continue to monitor all residents, including regular temperature and oxygen level checks and making sure they are hydrated.

“We have quite a number with COVID but, fortunately, people are vaccinated now so we have a fighting chance with it,” she said. “It’s hard to know how (the virus) got in here. It is especially transmissible with this variant.”

Garofalo said a number of staff have also tested positive, but did not provide a number.

“It’s a hell of a way to treat somebody at the end of life. My mom died by herself. And I think the cases are going to go up, not down.”–Bill Muir

“Staffing has been challenging, but we have managed to fill shifts to ensure resident needs are being met,” she said. “There have been staff willing to work extra shifts.”

WRHA spokeswoman Bobbi-Jo Stanley said the number of outbreaks goes up and down in local facilities “and will continue to vary as COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community for the foreseeable future.”

“Case numbers are dynamic and constantly changing and, due to a variety of factors, not necessarily reflective of the actual number of cases at particular site,” Stanley said.

“We hope community members continue to take appropriate precautions, such as masking up, staying home when sick and getting vaccinated, to help limit the spread of COVID, including in WRHA facilities.”

“I’m grateful I got in to see her but I would have been even more grateful if I could have been there when she passed.”–Bill Muir

Muir said his mother worked for years with ARC Industries in Portage la Prairie, helping adults with disabilities, before moving to Winnipeg. She had a stroke about a decade ago, and moved into Fred Douglas Lodge about two years before the pandemic.

“She had a great sense of humour,” Muir said. “(Monday), after I said goodbye to her, a worker came by and said she had a sense of humour.

“I’m grateful I got in to see her but I would have been even more grateful if I could have been there when she passed.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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Updated on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 7:18 PM CDT: typo fixed

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