London

Family devastated as COVID-19 claims its first registered nurse in Canada

The first registered nurse in Canada to die from COVID-19 complications is being remembered for his sharp sense of humour and dedication to helping others. 

Brian Beattie remembered as a nurse who loved his job, considered residents his 'other family'

Brian Beattie, seen here with his niece Amber Beattie, is Canada's first registered nurse to die from COVID-19. He worked at a care home in London, Ont., where multiple staff have tested positive for the illness. (Submitted by Amber Beattie)

The first registered nurse in Canada to die from COVID-19 complications is being remembered for his sharp sense of humour and dedication to helping others. 

Brian Beattie, 57, worked as an RN at Kensington Village, a 76-bed long-term care facility in London, Ont., where multiple staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

He died at home on Monday. 

In a statement released Wednesday, Beattie's niece described his devotion to helping others.

"My family is devastated," the statement from Amber Beattie reads. "We did not see him often, due to his dedication to his work, but we all spoke to him frequently via phone calls or texts. The times spent with him included a few drinks, some swear words, and lots of laughter! He had an amazing sense of humour, just as my grandparents always did and my dad does.

"He was dedicated to his work. He loved his job — we always knew that. However, since his passing, hearing all the stories from colleagues and those he cared for truly opens our eyes on how much he touched others' lives."

Beattie had been an RN for 23 years, and began working at Kensington Village in November 2018.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, all care homes in London held a moment of silence to remember him. 

A statement from Kensington Village described Beattie as "a caring and hard-working nurse who exemplified our core values of compassion, comfort and care."

A lover of dogs, especially his two German shepherds, Beattie was a volunteer with London's Second Chance Auction Animals Rescue. Kensington Village staff plan to make a contribution to the organization on Beattie's behalf. 

Linda Silas, national president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses, confirmed Wednesday that Beattie is Canada's first registered nurse to die of complications from the coronavirus. She said news of his death is particularly painful as it comes during National Nurses Week.

Silas said the time between Beattie contracting the virus and falling seriously ill was "quite quick." 

An outbreak of COVID-19 was declared at Kensington Village on April 3. (Google Maps)
 

Silas praised Beattie's commitment to the job at a time when the pandemic has taken a terrible toll on long-term care homes across Canada and around the world. 

"He called his colleagues and his residents his 'other family,' and that is so typical of long-term care workers," said Silas. "They continue to go to work because they're dealing with their second families, and Brian was like that."

Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton said she was saddened to hear of Beattie's death. 

"Words cannot express my sincere appreciation for all our health-care heroes working tirelessly every day to stop COVID-19, and to keep us all safe," Fullerton said in a statement.

Kensington Village says eight members of its staff have tested positive for COVID-19. The residence first declared an outbreak on April 3. Since then, five residents have died at the facility.

Three residents have active cases of the illness, and three others have recovered.

Well liked and respected

Leslie DuCharme, Kensington Village's director of operations, said Beattie will be missed.

"This death is felt deeply by our residents and our care team, and we mourn together as a community," she said in a statement.

The statement also says staff at Kensington are taking the proper safety precautions, which include access to the necessary personal protective equipment and being monitored at least twice a day for symptoms.

Staff at Kensington Village care home have set up this memorial to Brian Beattie. He is the first registered nurse in Canada to die due to complications of COVID-19. (Submitted by Kensington Village care home)

Kensington Village is one of 174 long-term care facilities in Ontario experiencing outbreaks, which have resulted in more than 1,200 COVID-19 deaths in the province.

That grim data has prompted Premier Doug Ford to promise a review of the province's long-term care system, though he refused the New Democrats' request for a full public inquiry.

Nurse Brian Beattie, centre, who recently died of COVID-19, is seen here with some of his co-workers. (Submitted by Amber Overholt)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Brian Beattie died in hospital. In fact he died at home, where he was quarantined after testing positive for the coronavirus.
    May 13, 2020 7:27 PM ET

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