Sixteen hours after a resident of Parkview Place died last week, her family learned she had tested positive for COVID-19.
The private, 277-bed home in downtown Winnipeg is the site of the largest outbreak at a personal care home in Manitoba. As of Friday, nearly 70 cases of the virus had been confirmed at Parkview Place — 50 residents and 19 staff — and nine residents had died.
As they grieve the loss of their mother, a family is left to wonder whether the senior, a woman in her 80s, was counted among those statistics. They're still waiting for answers about whether her death — the cause of which was listed as a type of pneumonia — has been officially linked to the Parkview Place outbreak.
"This is critical information for us to know, because it's impacting within the grieving process; all of the things that we need to do because of the death are all impacted," her daughter said.
The answer affects the funeral process, life insurance and the need for other family members to self-monitor for symptoms.
"A definitive answer allows us to close the door on her death. Without that final piece of information, you don't get the full sense of closure because you're always going to be wondering what happened."
Two of the woman's daughters spoke to the Free Press on the condition that their names not be published, saying there is a stigma associated with having a family member test positive for the virus.
The younger daughter said she visited Parkview Place the day before her mother died, but was never contacted by public health officials or contact-tracers. She was informed by Parkview Place staff in a phone call the evening after her mother died, and later in a form letter, that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19.
Although the personal care home has been under lockdown restrictions since the outbreak began in mid-September, the Winnipeg woman was allowed to visit her mother. She wore a mask, gloves and a gown, and said she had no concerns about sanitization at the facility. She had been told only one resident on her mother's floor had tested positive and was isolating.
"I didn't want her to die alone like that, so I chose to go," the woman's younger daughter said.
Her mother, a former nurse, moved into Parkview Place in March, the day before the facility restricted access. Before visits were stopped, they had to be booked in advance and limited to 25 minutes. It was difficult to arrange visits, and her mother was unable to talk on the phone. Her health rapidly declined, her daughter said.
"Before we got the news that she tested positive, I would have said she was a COVID-related death, just because she had dementia, (and) being confined to her room, she gave up."
"I never pictured when I put my mom in care that seven months down the line, I would be planning her funeral. I assumed that, with dementia, she would live, like my grandparents did, for years in a care home."
After many unanswered phone calls and emails, the family was told by Parkview Place staff on Friday their mother's medical chart had been given to public health officials, and that it was up to the medical examiner's office to determine how COVID-19 factored into her death.
The medical examiner's office did not respond to a Free Press inquiry about how many COVID-19-related personal care home death investigations are ongoing in the province.
The Ontario-based company that runs Parkview Place, Revera Inc., deferred questions about this case to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. A spokesman for the WRHA, which normally handles contract tracing in the region, said he couldn't release details of a specific case.
No one from the regional health authority has been inside Parkview Place since the pandemic was declared in March. A WRHA response team has held daily calls with Parkview Place employees to go over protocols since the outbreak began last month, the spokesman said.
As of Thursday, all personal care homes in the Winnipeg metropolitan region were under critical (red level) restrictions, including no visits except for exceptional circumstances, and new residents are not accepted.
On Wednesday, Revera released a higher case count at Parkview Place than what has been confirmed by Manitoba public health officials. It said 67 residents and 22 staff members had tested positive since the outbreak began in mid-September. The company, which operates dozens of long-term care facilities in Canada, has been named in a proposed class-action lawsuit in Ontario for its handling of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Read full biography