Thunder Bay

Family concerned after COVID-19 positive staff member allowed to work in long-term care home

The family member of a resident in a Thunder Bay, Ont., long-term care home where more than half of the population has tested positive for COVID-19, is concerned by a breach of protocol that resulted in a staff member with the virus working shifts in the facility.
A staff member at the Southbridge Roseview worked last week after testing positive for COVID-19, but did not receive notification of the result. (Matt Vis/CBC)

The family member of a resident in a Thunder Bay, Ont., long-term care home where more than half of the population has tested positive for COVID-19, is concerned by a breach of protocol that resulted in a staff member with the virus working in the facility.

Since a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at Southbridge Roseview in November, less than two months ago, more than 90 residents and over 50 staff members have tested positive.

There have been 19 resident deaths from the virus, which account for all but two of the total in the Thunder Bay District.

While the home's current active case count is much lower now than at the peak of the outbreak, an incident last week has led to some residents being exposed to COVID-19.

Maureen Halushak, whose mother lives in the home, said her family was contacted on New Year's Eve and notified that a staff member with COVID-19 had been in her mother's room. They soon learned that the staff member had tested positive before reporting to work, but didn't receive notification of their status until after working.

"It's just so incredibly infuriating," Halushak said. "To me, it says they do not have this outbreak under control."

'Anomaly'

Candace Chartier, the chief seniors advocate and strategic partnerships officer for Southbridge, said the staff member worked night shifts on Dec. 28 and 29 and was asymptomatic. Multiple phone messages were left by both Roseview staff and public health workers but the employee did not receive them, she added.

The staff member, despite having been removed from a list provided to the contracted security guard at the entrance, insisted they were there for their scheduled shift and was allowed to go to work.

"We investigated in real time. We're diligently working to stop this outbreak. Our numbers are going down. We have excellent staff in the home," Chartier said, adding Southbridge sincerely apologizes to families.

"I really feel this is an anomaly."

Different measures have been put in place to prevent a similar incident from occurring, she added.

Chartier said the home has staff members screened three times per shift, which includes temperature checks. Residents and staff members are tested every five days for the virus, she said. Southbridge has also had their corporate epidemiologist working with their certified infection control specialist.

Mother tests negative

But Halushak questions whether those measures can be effective.

"None of that really matters if a positive worker is getting into the home," she said.

Halushak said her mother was tested on Dec. 31 and has since received a negative result.

"Right before Christmas I was starting to feel grateful that my mom had made it this long without testing positive and I felt like things were turning a corner," Halushak said. 

"I have absolutely zero faith in Southbridge, whatsoever. It seems like they don't know how to resolve this situation."

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