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Canadian Red Cross called to help Barrie long-term care home with 100-plus COVID-19 cases

The Canadian Red Cross has been deployed to help manage a major outbreak at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont. that has left 62 residents and 43 staff infected with COVID-19.

Roberta Place has 62 residents and 43 staff infected with COVID-19

The Canadian Red Cross has been deployed to help manage a major outbreak at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont. that has left 62 residents and 43 staff infected with COVID-19. (Mike Cole/CBC)

The Canadian Red Cross has been deployed to help manage a major outbreak at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont. that has left 62 residents and 43 staff infected with COVID-19.

At least nine residents at Roberta Place have died as of Sunday.

Stephanie Barber, a spokesperson for the 140-bed Roberta Place, confirmed the numbers to CBC News in a statement Sunday.

The numbers are higher than the province's most recent update on the home and several doctors had sounded the alarm about the scale of the outbreak on Twitter, suggesting the infections may be driven by a variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the U.K.

Barber said that the home cannot confirm that, but further testing is underway. 

Dr. Kelley Wright, a family physician in the Barrie and Orillia area, says the high number of residents and staff who have fallen ill has put a massive strain on the home — calling it "overwhelming."

"I had to tell a daughter who has two parents in this home that very likely both of her parents were going to pass away," Wright said. "One of them has passed away and we're unfortunately waiting for the other one."

Wright is one of four physicians currently volunteering at the home to help manage the outbreak.

A spokesperson for Roberta Place said that the home cannot confirm whether or not the outbreak had any relation to the COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K., but further testing is underway.  (Mike Cole/CBC)

In a news release Sunday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath called for the help of the Canadian Armed Forces and Red Cross to manage the dire situation at the home. 

"Behind the walls of some nursing homes, there is a horrifying humanitarian crisis playing out," said Horwath. 

"Physicians are calling for help at Roberta Place, and we hear the urgency. We're asking Doug Ford not to let these people continue to suffer without the province doing anything to ease their struggle and help save lives."

Wright said what the home needs now is registered staff, and questions why the province had not deployed teams to the long-term care facilities dealing with severe outbreaks. 

At this time, she says the physicians volunteering at the home are dedicated to helping contain the outbreak and keep communication open between patients and their families.

"The volunteer physicians have offered their services for as long as it takes, we're trying our best to communicate with families right now," Wright said.

Krystle Caputo, a spokesperson for Ontario's minister of long-term care posted a statement to Twitter on Sunday blaming the rise in community spread for putting the seniors and staff at risk. 

"We remain committed to doing everything we can, along with our partners, to help stabilize the home and have it return to normal operations," the statement reads.

Public health officials administered 71 vaccines to residents and staff members at the home on Saturday, Barber said.

Barber said the home is "pleased" to be getting support from the Red Cross.

With files from Sabrina Jonas and Lauren Pelley

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