PSW at Windsor seniors' home who died of COVID-19 remembered as 'funny, compassionate'

According to a media release from Unifor, Yakovishin worked at the facility for over 30 years.

Sheila Yakovishin, 60, worked at Berkshire Care Centre

Sheila Yakovishin, 60, died due to COVID-19 on Dec. 31, according to a statement from Unifor. (Unifor)

A personal support worker at a long-term care facility suffering a major outbreak of COVID-19 has died.

Sheila Yakovishin, who worked at Berkshire Care Centre in Windsor, died on Dec. 31.

According to a media release from Unifor, she was 60 years old.

Yakovishin worked at the facility for over 30 years, the union said.

Erica Hooker, executive director of Berkshire Care Centre, described Yakovishin as a beloved member of the community.

"Despite having other health issues, Sheila always persevered and put the care of others before her own," Hooker said in a statement. "She had a giant heart, and it showed each and every day in the care and support that she provided to residents and to her colleagues."

Hooker added that a grief counsellor is available to residents and staff, and they hope to find a way to celebrate Yakovishin's life at a later date, in consultation with her family.

Shelley Smith, second vice president of Unifor Local 2458, worked with Yakovishin at Berkshire Care Centre and said she was deeply upset when she heard the news. 

"I personally was very devastated when I heard, you know, we are all fighting this terrible pandemic and virus that we're in right now and it really hit very close to home when I heard that Shelley had passed away," she said. "She was a great woman, she was very funny, very fun-loving, caring, compassionate, and of course being a PSW wanting to go to work and do her very best to take care of the residents." 

At the same time, she said she was frustrated that her former colleague died when there's a vaccine available. 

"I'm not understanding why it's not given to homes that are in the outbreak, but I think it needs to be given a lot quicker than it is being dished out right now ... prolonging it is not beneficial," she said. 

As of the end of last week, public health has approved some long-term care homes in outbreak to receive the vaccine, though there are some that are not able to based on the extent of the outbreak. 

Ontario's minister of long-term care said it was heartbreaking to learn of the death of a personal support worker in Windsor.

"Our frontline health care workers have been working tirelessly each and every day to help stop the spread of the virus, and we are extremely grateful for all that they do to keep us all safe," Merrilee Fullerton tweeted on Saturday.

"My thoughts are with her family and friends during this difficult time."

The COVID-19 outbreak was declared at Berkshire Care Centre on Dec. 11. As of Monday, 82 patients at the facility have tested positive for the virus, as well as 38 staff, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

According to provincial government statistics, seven residents have died of COVID-19 since the outbreak began.

There are currently 20 long-term care and retirement homes in outbreak across the region, and hundreds of active cases among residents and staff.

The union said many privately owned homes are suffering severe outbreaks.

"These rising statistics of infections among workers in Windsor's for-profit LTC centres are more than numbers," Tullio DiPonti, president of Unifor Local 2458, said in a statement. 

"They are people like Sheila, with full lives to live, people who deserve like we all do, to come home safe from work."


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