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This article was published 9/11/2020 (317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A community leader has become Manitoba's first health-care worker to die from COVID-19, as the deadly disease hammers the health system and those in its trust.
Jean Claude Dianzenza, 61, died Friday after he was infected with the virus while working at Victoria General Hospital.
Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 204 president Debbie Boissonneault confirmed the death of a health-care aide who had been assigned to the fifth floor of the hospital.
He had been working on the floor when COVID-19 outbreaks were declared in two family medicine units Oct. 23. The outbreak has grown to 79 cases —38 staff and 41 patients — and eight reported deaths, thus far.
The news came Monday, when the province announced 365 new cases and the deaths of three Manitobans.
"It just devastates me to hear that one of my members passed," Boissonneault said.
"In health care, we’re all family, and this is heartbreaking," she said. "It’s resonating really hard. There’s a ripple effect across the system."
Boissonneault said health-care aides are feeling anxious and said the death of a colleague is sparking new questions as to whether they’re protected while at work.
"They don’t want to be the next one that’s taken because of COVID," she said. "CUPE has filed 55 grievances and we filed a grievance at Victoria Hospital. We shouldn’t still have to beg for (personal protective equipment).We shouldn’t have to beg for an N95."
She said the union is working with the hospital to learn more about how staff at the facility are acquiring the virus. She wants the findings of the investigation made public.
"We should be getting answers so we can assess what happened and learn from what happened and make things better, so it doesn’t happen again," she said.
During a media availability Monday, Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa made reference to the "sad news."
"One of our own has fallen," Siragusa said. "We want to extend our condolences to his family, loved ones and the team."
Dianzenza was president of the Congolese Community of Manitoba. The organization said he died Friday following a "short illness."
He is the first reported health-care worker in Manitoba to die from COVID-19.
"Everybody in the community knows him," said Christian Kivi, a pastor with International Discipleship Ministry Church in Winnipeg.
"He would sometimes attend IDM Church when there were events and things like that, and he was also a leader in the community. Whenever there were activities, he was very much involved."
In the past week, Siragusa said 44 health-care workers in Manitoba had tested positive; 1,701 health-care workers and first responders had been tested in the past week.
Of the 44, 36 were in the Winnipeg region, five in Southern Health, two in Prairie Mountain and one in Northern Health. Twenty-two are nurses, four are doctors or doctors in training, 15 are allied health professionals or support staff and three had yet to be identified.
The health-care system is experiencing record sick time as a result of workers who are isolating or have COVID-19 symptoms, Siragusa said.
In the past two weeks, more than 106,000 hours of sick time were logged — 27,000 above the five-year average, and a major increase from the previous two weeks' 92,000 hours.
"It's a great concern for our health-care system," she said.
As of midnight Sunday, 80 of 85 intensive-care unit beds were in use, with 28 of those beds occupied by COVID patients, Siragusa said. And Monday morning, 21 of the 69 patients on ventilators are COVID-positive, she said.
Two more ICU beds opened at the weekend at Health Sciences Centre. As of Oct. 26, 397 non-urgent and elective surgeries were postponed to free up resources for the surge in COVID cases, she said. In Winnipeg, 80 per cent of medicine beds were occupied; outside of the city, 65 per cent were occupied.
Meanwhile, Manitobans should prepare to face tougher pandemic restrictions, the province's top doctor warned. Over the past seven days, the province has reported more than 2,000 new cases.
"I met with the premier this morning to discuss the need for further restrictions," chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.
"We see these numbers going in the wrong direction and increased demands on the health-care system," Roussin said, one week — an estimated half an incubation period — into code-red restrictions being imposed on the Winnipeg metro region. Code-red restrictions took effect Monday in the Southern Health region.
"We're looking to see the results of having those in place. At the same time, we're looking at whether further restrictions are required. We're certainly concerned with these numbers.
"We're at a critical point."
Two Manitobans from the Southern Health region — one in his 70s and one in his 90s — and a Winnipeg woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Victoria General Hospital, were the deaths reported Monday.
A total of 109 Manitobans have died from the disease since March.
As of Monday morning, Manitoba had 5,152 active cases, with 192 people in hospital — 28 in intensive care. Of the 365 new cases, nine were in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 16 in Interlake–Eastern, 16 in the Northern region, 91 in Southern Health, and 233 in Winnipeg.
The five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate was 9.5 per cent; for Winnipeg, it was 9.3 per cent.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.