Former Guess Who drummer on life support, family calls for return of mask requirements at health-care centres


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Last month, Vance Masters was at home, on a treadmill, exercising in preparation for his first evening out since the pandemic began.

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Last month, Vance Masters was at home, on a treadmill, exercising in preparation for his first evening out since the pandemic began.

Now, the 77-year-old internationally recognized musician is on life support in an intensive care unit, after contracting COVID-19 inside a health-care centre.

His family is speaking out about the lack of protection for vulnerable patients in Manitoba, particularly in the wake of rescinded mask mandates in hospitals and long-term care settings.

The Crescendos, renamed 5 am Event, in London 1966. Left to right Stuart Mckennan, Terry Loeb, Glenn MacRae, Vance Masters. (Supplied)

Bev Masters and the couple’s two adult children are in the process of making heart-rending decisions about how long to continue his life support.

The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in February, and have continued to take extreme pandemic precautions because of their own health issues.

They’d successfully avoided COVID-19 until Vance Masters contracted it during a stay at Misericordia Health Centre’s transitional unit last month. He got seriously ill and is still on a ventilator and other equipment.

“I don’t want to let him go, no matter what. But I also don’t want him suffering,” Bev said Thursday.

She’s calling for a return to masking and strong infection-control protocols in health-care settings, saying the failure to do so shows “callous disregard for people’s health.”

Manitoba stopped requiring masks in health-care facilities as of May 10; some facilities decided to drop them earlier, including Misericordia on May 4.

“Bring back the protocols for viral transmission in health-care facilities,” Bev said. “Why is it so difficult for us, for our health-care facilities, to say ‘We have people at risk here, and we’re going to keep these protocols in place?’”

Masters, a drummer known for touring with the Guess Who in the late 1970s and ‘80s, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1982.

The condition didn’t start slowing him down until about four years ago, when he began using a walker, family said.

Vance Masters (Supplied)

He fell at home and broke his left shoulder April 10.

The break was inoperable and couldn’t be put in a cast. The only treatment was a sling that relied on gravity to heal the bone.

However, Masters wouldn’t be able to use his walker with one arm in a sling, so instead of being sent home from Concordia Hospital urgent care, he was sent for rehabilitation at Misericordia.

He was expected to be there for two or three months, getting physiotherapy and learning how to use a one-handed walker, before returning home, family said.

On April 18, he expressed he had trouble breathing. Later that day, the facility officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak.

“And then, the next thing I know, on (April) 20, he’s on his way by ambulance to Grace Hospital,” Bev said.

Masters rapidly deteriorated and was moved to the ICU.

His family praised Grace staff, but said they believe he wouldn’t be there now if stricter infection control measures were in place at Misericordia. All staff were masked during Masters’s stay, but others were not required to wear masks.

“There are too many vectors for transmission,” Bev said.

Vance Masters with The Guess Who 1979. (Supplied)

“I think the lifting of (general public) restrictions a year ago was detrimental to any long-term care facility, any place that has vulnerable patients, like ICU,” she added.

“(Populations are) still vulnerable, whether you’re a three-week-old baby or you’re a 75-year-old senior that has issues with their health. I don’t understand why they can’t keep that in place. It’s a proven fact that masking helps.”

Because of their existing health issues, the couple had been maintaining relative isolation for the past three years, even forgoing a family gathering last Christmas.

They were fully vaccinated and boosted. Their first public outing was to be May 4, for dinner and see one of Masters’s former bandmates perform. That’s why he was on the treadmill, trying to build up strength.

“A guy that’s got MS, trying to build up more strength in his legs, is not somebody that should be on life support three weeks later,” his wife said.

Katie May

Katie May

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.


Updated on Friday, May 12, 2023 12:38 PM CDT: Adds photos

Updated on Friday, May 12, 2023 6:35 PM CDT: Removes graf indicating Masters co-wrote Hand Me Down World and Bus Rider

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