Death toll increases at Roberta Place as LTC operator issues statement over outbreak

Health Unit says there are enough staff to provide "good level" of care to residents

The number of residents who have died in the COVIC-19 outbreak at Barrie’s Roberta Place long-term care home has risen to 53 according to staff at the home. One essential caregiver has also lost their life.

The outbreak involves a faster-spreading UK variant of the virus, known as B.1.1.7. and the majority of the variant cases cropping up in the community are connected to Roberta Place. Dr. Colin Lee, associate medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says they have confirmed ten cases of the variant in Simcoe-Muskoka, and are examining another 215 (110 suspected cases of the variant, and 105 that require a second test to confirm a first).

Two of the variant cases cannot be connected to the Roberta Place outbreak or another outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community that also involves the UK variant. “That would represent where our concern is; that there is transmission within the community, that it is stealthy, that it is unknown,” Dr. Lee told media during a Friday afternoon news conference. “We want to keep that number as low as possible. And we’re watching that.”

While there have been 129 residents of Roberta Place who have tested positive for the virus, so too have 84 staff members. Lee says that is leading to fluctuating care conditions for residents. “I think it’s fair to say at the beginning, it was very, very difficult. And it has been slowly improving. I think at this time, from what I understand, it is a lot better than at the beginning,” Lee said. “The health and safety of the residents at this time is at a good level.”

“We do need a lot of staff still because, unfortunately, many of these residents are still quite ill and require more care than usual. But we’re getting a lot of help from various agencies like the Red Cross as well as within the hospital,” added Dr. Lee. “From what I understand, again, they seem to be coping.”

Because of the short staffing and the increased needs of the residents, Dr. Lee says many staff have had to prioritize care over keeping residents in touch with loved ones. “In an outbreak setting where the resident needs are high and are acute, unfortunately, sometimes I think the staff have to prioritize the care of the residents over answering the phone,” he said. “I can certainly see how that is quite a concern from families trying to phone in and find out what’s happening, what the status is of their loved ones.”

An open letter was sent out Friday, signed by David Jarlette, President of Jarlette Health Services which operates Roberta Place. “To date, there has been significant attention and focus on the numbers of those affected by this outbreak and we wish to take this opportunity to remind everyone that those numbers represent so much more than just a statistic,” reads the statement from Jarlette. “Those numbers represent the lives of the people we have been called to serve. Those numbers represent the Team Members, who, despite immense responsibility in the face of adversity, have never given up on their pledge to extend the highest quality of care to our Residents, Family Members and Team Members.”