Ottawa

Staff member at city-run nursing home dies of COVID-19

A personal support worker at the city-run Peter D. Clark long-term care centre has died after contracting COVID-19, the city said Wednesday.

Personal support worker was an employee at Peter D. Clark long-term care centre

An employee at the Peter D. Clark long-term care home has died of COVID-19, City of Ottawa officials say. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

A personal support worker at the city-run Peter D. Clark long-term care centre has died after contracting COVID-19, the city said Wednesday.

City officials said the male employee died Tuesday night. Offering his "sincere condolences" to the man's family, Mayor Jim Watson said no further details about the man would be shared without their permission.

The man is the second personal support worker to die in Ottawa since the outbreak began, but the first at a city-run facility.

Sienna Senior Living announced May 7 that one of its employees, a longtime personal support worker at the Madonna Care Community, also died from the respiratory illness.

'They're exhausted. They are absolutely burnt out'

Miranda Ferrier, president of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association, says the COVID-19 pandemic has left many personal support workers feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. (Supplied)

"This is a devastating loss," said Miranda Ferrier, president of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association (OPSWA), in response to the latest death.

Ferrier said she's been hearing from many PSWs who are fearful about working in facilities that are understaffed and struggling to handle COVID-19 outbreaks. 

"They're exhausted. They are absolutely burnt out," she said.

"These personal support workers are working around the clock ... They're caring for 20, 30 residents at a time and it's impossible for them to do the great job that they want to do for each resident."

Six PSWs have died in Ontario and one nurse since the pandemic began.

"We are really urging the [provincial] government to look further into this," Ferrier said.  "It's very troubling."

Fear of a second wave

Some association members are also anxious that cases of COVID-19 could spike again now that the province has reopened some workplaces, seasonal activities and healthcare settings, Ferrier said.

"Many of the PSWs are concerned that there's going to be a second wave," she said.

The president of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association says the death of a sixth PSW in Ontario is devastating. (Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco/CBC)

"Life cannot return to normal until there is no more COVID-19. Period."

Unlike nurses and doctors in Ontario, personal support workers are not regulated by a professional body that sets specific standards. Ferrier said OPSWA has been fighting for years to change that and it's now more important than ever.

"Without PSWs this system will fail. We already are losing PSWs [during] COVID-19 that are choosing to leave the job because they don't feel appreciated, because they don't feel safe."

According to Ottawa Public Health's latest report on outbreaks at facilities, there are 16 active cases of COVID-19 among residents at the 216-bed Peter D. Clark facility, and nine among staff. The report doesn't specify how many residents have died from the respiratory illness, but notes it's fewer than five.

There are currently 24 outbreaks of COVID-19 at institutions including retirement homes, nursing homes and hospitals in Ottawa.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the staff member had died Monday. The staff member died Tuesday.
    May 20, 2020 4:32 PM ET

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