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Woman with Down syndrome in critical condition as Markham, Ont. care home sees COVID-19 surge

Coronavirus: Cases surge at Markham care home where staff walked out
WATCH: An Ontario home where nearly all staff left after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared has seen a surge in positive cases, including at least one person in critical condition. Kamil Karamali reports.

Patty Baird’s health deteriorated quickly once she tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday — and now her family says doctors told them the very next day that she won’t survive.

“We just bawled our eyes out,” said Patty’s sister-in-law, Louise Baird.

“We’re devastated, we just want to know why? How?”

Fifty-two-year-old Patty has Down syndrome and lives at Markham’s Participation House, a care home for adults with disabilities.

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

Louise said that her sister-in-law was experiencing a lot of pain when she went to visit her at the group home on Monday.

“I knew something was wrong just by seeing her,” said Louise. “She couldn’t get out of bed, she couldn’t even walk anymore.

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“The agony — she was screaming in agony. She was in so much pain.”

Louise informed a nurse, who told her that Patty was ‘not sounding well.’ They submitted her to Markham Stouffville Hospital down the street that night.

She received word a few hours later that her sister-in-law was not expected to live.

“So right now, they’re just making her comfortable and giving her what she needs to complete her journey,” said Louise, through tears.

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

On Thursday, nearly all of the 80 staff workers left the facility, after management announced that there were those who tested positive for COVID-19.

By Monday, that number had climbed to 12 residents and six staff members testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

Then, on Tuesday morning, a letter was sent to all remaining staff members and residents with the ‘gut-wrenching’ news that the number had spiked.

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By the end of the day, 37 out of the 42 residents had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, in addition to 12 staff members.

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

“When I opened that email and saw 37 out of 42 tested positive, my jaw fell to the floor,” said Louise. “I cant even speak of it. I mean, just how did this happen?”

The letter by Participation House executive director Shelley Brillinger also went on to say that “we are in full medical emergency mode and have the medical cavalry coming ASAP. Butternut (Lane) will be transformed into a hospital setting (i.e. oxygen, pain meds, EMS staffing), so we can provide all of the care and support necessary on site here.”

“I apologize for this heartbreaking message. I am gutted with this news and am every bit as scared as the rest of our [Participation House] family,” she adds.
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The note also listed four of the residents being in hospital.

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Brillinger had made a public plea late last week for assistance after her regular staff members, mostly personal support workers, left their positions when hearing of the novel coronavirus outbreak inside the care facility.

The province had responded by saying they’re working on finding health-care workers to step in, but they’re currently in the process of vetting them.

But one staff member who works at the home said they were told to get tested at the Markham Stouffville Hospital nearby and were then advised by medical staff there to go home and self-isolate.

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“[The staff] started checking temperatures … they left and went over to the hospital to get themselves checked and they were told to go home and isolate themselves,” said Participation House personal support worker, Yvonne Dixon, who said she was advised to go home because she’s immunocompromised.

She adds that before the outbreak, there was almost no personal protective equipment (PPE) being used by staff.

“At one point, we didn’t have masks to use. They were not prepared, they were definitely not prepared …until it got out of hand.”

Meanwhile, Louise and her family also blame Participation House for the declining health of their loved one.

They claim that PPE was not used until a few days before the outbreak and are also pointing the finger at the province for not having testing available to all care homes, like Participation House.

But she adds her greatest disappointment is in the staff members who left vulnerable residents without much care.

“That was heart-wrenching,” she said. “You do not do that as a human being, we are humans.

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“Humanity has just lost it. You do not walk out like that with patients with disabilities and just leave them there.”