Joe Corral, 61, mourned as 1st Alberta health-care worker to die of COVID-19
'The tragedy of this loss will be felt across the system,' health minister says
Joe Marie (Jing) Parrenas Corral, a 61-year-old Calgary man who was known for treating the seniors he supported with respect and dignity, has become the first known health-care worker to die of COVID-19 in Alberta.
Corral died on Dec. 28. He worked as a health-care aide at Bethany Riverview, a long-term care centre specializing in caring for people with complex dementia in Calgary.
A spokesperson for Bethany Riverview said in a statement that the company is saddened to learn of an employee's death and is working to coordinate supports for those affected by the loss. The spokesperson said that out of respect for the family's privacy, no further information will be released.
As of Monday, there were 20 active employee cases and 20 active resident cases at the site, and two residents have died. A total of 10 employees and 11 residents have recovered. The outbreak affected four levels at the facility.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a statement that he is saddened to hear a health-care worker has died, and that he wishes to extend his condolences to their loved ones.
"The dedication and remarkable commitment I've witnessed from health-care workers throughout the pandemic has never wavered — you have stepped up for this province in a time of need," Shandro said.
"The tragedy of this loss will be felt across the system, and by those who were cared for by this individual and their co-workers. Their service will not be forgotten."
A spokesperson for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees confirmed that Corral had died and that the family has been told that the Worker's Compensation Board accepted his infection was acquired at work.
Bobby-Joe Borodey, vice-president of AUPE, said Corral's death is a loss for the health-care profession.
"He was someone who was a caring individual who had dedicated this portion of his life to helping other people. I mean, that is the case for for all health-care workers. That's why they go into the profession, because they care about others. And, you know, Joe is just one of those people that really wanted to give back and and help other people," she said.
AUPE shared the following statement from Corral's family: "Our family is truly and eternally grateful for the support and love everyone has shown during this difficult time. We cannot thank enough those whom have offered their condolences, resources and financial support."
A Facebook post from Fiesta Filipino, the largest cultural festival for the Filipino community in Alberta, had highlighted Corral's work as a "COVID-19 hero" at Bethany.
'His precious smile will never be forgotten'
"He was the nicest man and how he treated everyone with respect and dignity is beyond immeasurable. He was [a] one-of-a-kind person and many of his co-workers are mourning of his passing," the post reads.
"His precious smile will never be forgotten. He is truly an inspiration. We will forever miss you Kuya Joe, our hero! Joe, we will be forever grateful for all your hard work."
Kuya is a Tagalog word meaning older brother, used as a sign of respect.
Corral was born on April 17, 1959, in Iloilo City, Philippines, according to his obituary. He is survived by a daughter who lives in Burnaby, B.C., and a son who lives in Edmonton.
Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, says while others stayed home, health-care workers answered the call to serve Albertans during the pandemic.
"This tragic death highlights why we have been advocating so strongly for the immediate vaccination of all front-line health-care workers who put themselves at the greatest risk every day," he said.
"HSAA members know and accept the risks involved in caring for our critically sick friends and neighbours. We are and will continue to be Alberta's best line of defence."
An online fundraiser has been set up to support his family.
With files from Lucie Edwardson and Jennifer Lee