Coronavirus: ‘Critical’ staffing levels remain at Markham group home where most staff walked out

Markham care home desperate for staff after workers walkout
WATCH ABOVE: The number of positive COVID-19 cases has risen at a Markham care home where workers walked out after learning of an outbreak last Thursday. Kamil Karamali reports.

The executive director of a Markham group home where a majority of staff recently walked out of the facility after a coronavirus outbreak was declared says staffing levels remain “critical.”

Shelley Brillinger, who heads up Participation House, told reporters on Monday that while there has been a “wonderful response from the community,” the problem with staffing remains.

“It remains at a critical low. We really need skilled workers,” Brillinger said.

READ MORE: Markham care home taking applications amid staffing shortage, COVID-19 outbreak

She said some volunteers have come forward, but staffing remains both unpredictable and below what’s needed.

The home, which houses adults with disabilities, saw most of its staff walk off the job after they were informed about a coronavirus outbreak on Thursday.

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Former MP and Dr. Jane Philpott is among those who have offered assistance to the home.

Markham Stouffville Hospital, which is next to Participation House, has also given some support.

Brillinger said 12 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom had to be taken to hospital. Forty residents were in the home as of Monday.

She also said six staff members have contracted the virus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak at Markham home for adults with disabilities causes staff to walk off job

Brillinger said she has received numerous emails from nurses and personal support workers offering to help, but said she needs time to go through the offers and find individuals who can help.

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She added that she has been in talks with the union that represents the workers in the home, and it’s possible some may come back but some are awaiting COVID-19 test results.

“It’s just a possibility and we’re hopeful that it might happen, but we can’t bank on it,” Brillinger said.

She said she fears if more residents contract COVID-19, there will be a need for staffing even beyond what was the standard.

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Coronavirus: Family reacts after staff at Markham home for adults walk off job
Coronavirus: Family reacts after staff at Markham home for adults walk off job

“We anticipate, clearly as people become ill, we’re going to need to operate almost like a small hospital over here to be able to provide the level of care that will be required,” she said.

After receiving numerous donations, Brillinger said the home currently has enough personal protective equipment to last at least four or five days. She said they are continuing to work to source out additional supplies from the community.

Premier Doug Ford commented on the situation at Participation House during a press conference Monday afternoon.

“We all recognize how hard it is to be working on the front lines right now,” Ford said.

Staff walked out of Markham group home after residents test positive for COVID-19
Staff walked out of Markham group home after residents test positive for COVID-19

“I know that it takes a tremendous strain on people, but we have to look after the most vulnerable. We have a duty to take care of those who cannot look after themselves.”

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Ford said his government has been working to help address the staffing shortages.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpetti said he was “concerned and disturbed” about the situation at Participation House, and also has been working with the provincial government to address the problem.

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