‘They’re trying to keep our loved ones alive:’ Ottawa woman speaks out in support of Madonna Care Community
OTTAWA -- At hospitals around the City of Ottawa Monday, flags were lowered to honour a personal support worker who passed away from COVID-19. The man, whose name hasn’t been publically released, worked at Madonna Care Community for 19 years.
It’s the same long-term care home where Brigitte McCauley-Philion’s father Jacques lived until his death last week.
The 72-year-old had several neurological conditions but had tested negative for COVID-19.
“They right away called me and said ‘can we put you on speakerphone to see if you can get dad to eat?’ And then I kept pushing and said can I come into the home?” recalled McCauley-Philion.
Like most long-term care homes, there’s a strict no visitor policy currently in place at Madonna Care Community. However, some exceptions have been made for extenuating circumstances.
McCauley-Philion said the home informed her of the risks of coming into an environment where COVID-19 was present and that they’d prefer she connect over FaceTime unless she found it necessary to come in.
McCauley-Philion said her dad was non-verbal and felt it was imperative for him to see family in-person. Donning full personal protective equipment, she was able to feed him at meal times for a few days.
“Going to the home I had to Purell and was masked immediately, along with a face shield. Prior to wearing the face shield I had to get my temperature taken and then once on the unit prior to going into his room I had to be fully gowned up, gloves,” she said.
She was able to be at his side when he passed away.
“I’d been through this journey with my father for the last 12 years…for me to think that he would’ve died alone without his family there would’ve been so much…not the letdown but almost the lack of closure because in my head it’s not real that it had happened but I wanted to witness how he passed away and being able to witness it, his death was truly beautiful,” McCauley-Philion said.
McCauley-Philion recognizes this will anger some who are not able to see their relatives and admits things may have been different had her father contracted the virus.
“When I was speaking to the vice president on Friday we were talking about the risk going in and COVID and what not and I said ‘by the way my father’s negative’ and she went ‘oh he’s negative that changes things a little bit.’”
Sienna Senior Living, the company that operates the home, did not respond to a request from CTV News Ottawa for comment.
Several families with relatives at the home have come forward voicing concerns over staffing levels and lack of communication.
In an earlier statement, Sienna Senior Living had said it was doing its best to communicate with families as often as possible.
“Communication is difficult in long-term care on a good day but I had a positive experiences,” McCauley-Philion said. “I would call on various shifts and I always got through and it was always with a positive ‘don’t worry things are fine’ and I always said no news is good news.”
McCauley-Philion said she’s speaking out to recognize those working hard to care for those who need it most.
“Having been in the middle of what the front-line workers are dealing with they are trying to keep our loved ones alive. At this point my observation was if you can wear scrubs, you’re hired. They’re doing what they can with the resources they have and it’s easy to judge but it’s also if you’re in it to see they’re truly, truly, just trying to keep our loved ones alive.”