Worker at Orléans care home dies from COVID-19

A long-time personal support worker at one of Ottawa's hardest-hit long-term care homes has died of COVID-19, officials there say.

30 residents have died at the Madonna Care Community

A message thanking health-care workers is seen beside a statue of Mary outside the Madonna Care Community in Ottawa. The long-term care home announced Thursday one of its workers had died from COVID-19. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

A longtime personal support worker at one of Ottawa's hardest-hit long-term care homes has died of COVID-19, officials there say.

Thirty residents have died at the Madonna Care Community in Orléans since the start of the outbreak, according to Sienna Senior Living, the home's operator — but neither Madonna nor any other homes in Ottawa had reported a staff member dying of the respiratory illness until now.

"He was a loved and respected team member and will be missed by his colleagues and the residents he cared for," the home said in a statement Thursday. 

"Our dedicated team is working tirelessly to bring care, comfort and support to the residents we serve. The loss of a colleague is truly heartbreaking during an already difficult time." 

'We need a plan'

The worker's death is "certainly a tragic situation" for the care home, said Stephen Blais, the MPP for Orléans.

Sienna has sent extra managers to the facility to better understand what's happening and implement measures to improve the situation, Blais told Radio-Canada.

"We think it's very important that they and the government explain how they're going to improve this situation, and how they can get a handle on what's going on there," he said.

"We need a plan to deal with the emergency today, but it needs to be long-lasting. Because this isn't going to go away any time soon."

As of May 7, there have been 78 positive cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents at the Madonna Care Community, according to the province. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

There are currently 47 residents and 31 staff at the home who've tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Thursday afternoon statement from the office of Merillee Fullerton, Ontario's minister of long-term care.

The ministry is tracking conditions at the Madonna Care Community "daily," the statement said, noting the home has outbreak management strategies in place and isn't short on personal protective equipment. 

Various local health institutions, including The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO, are helping Madonna with staffing, the statement said. 

An "assigned support person" from the ministry is also making sure the home has what they need to get through the pandemic.

They've lost a trusted and respected colleague- Candace Rennick

However, earlier testing and more access to personal protective equipment could potentially have prevented the worker's death, according to the union that represents workers at the home.

"We're talking about over 20 days [after the first case] before the home-wide testing took place. So I think people could have moved quicker," said Candace Rennick, secretary-treasurer with CUPE Ontario and a former front-line long-term care worker.

More N95 respiratory masks — which most workers at the home don't have — would also have been beneficial, Rennick added.

"I think people are pretty devastated ... they've lost a trusted and respected colleague," she said.

2 new deaths citywide

The total number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in the nation's capital currently sits at 141, according to the latest numbers released Thursday afternoon by Ottawa Public Health (OPH).

Health officials announced 21 new cases Thursday, along with two more deaths.

In all, there have been 1,579 laboratory-confirmed cases, OPH said, with ongoing outbreaks in 24 institutions.

Public health officials have said there are likely many more undiagnosed cases in the community.

With files from Natalia Goodwin and Matthew Kupfer

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