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Coronavirus: Toronto man concerned about lack of testing of at-home personal support workers

Coronavirus: Concern for safety inside assisted living centre
WATCH ABOVE: A Toronto man has a direct appeal for Premier Doug Ford when it comes to assisted living centres and protections being offered during the coronavirus pandemic. Tom Hayes reports.

A man who lives in an assisted living condo in downtown Toronto says he has concerns about the lack of coronavirus testing for his personal support workers (PSWs).

A spinal chord accident five years ago left Chris Stigas paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair.

His daily routine includes two visits from PSWs and now with the coronavirus outbreak, Stigas said those visits have him worried for his well-being.

“I have people in my life who are coming in to provide care and putting my life at risk,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario releases gradual reopening plan, though no dates provided

The PSWs who visit him currently wear surgical masks, but Stigas said he would like to see them tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis.

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“My concern is some of them are taking public transportation. Some are getting rides from people in their lives that they may not be living with,” he said.

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The provincial government has expanded testing, including for staff at long-term care homes and hospitals.

First reported Toronto personal support worker succumbs to COVID-19
First reported Toronto personal support worker succumbs to COVID-19

Medical teams currently enter long-term care homes to test everyone inside.

The Ford government recently announced plans were in the works to test all PSWs for COVID-19 before interacting with clients. No time frame for this expansion of testing has been set.

“Yes, we’re behind in Ontario,” said Natalie Mehra, CEO of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Mehra said the safety of everyone in the assisted living buildings needs to be a priority, including the PSWs.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario’s patient ombudsman says complaints from long-term care homes signal crisis

“You can’t test the staff and not the clients. The clients could be asymptomatic and could be passing along COVID-19 to their care workers, caregivers and their families and communities. So across the board there needs to be a coordinated ramp up of the testing,” said Mehra.

After his accident, Stigas was on a ventilator for four months. He survived but lost half of his breathing capacity. He doesn’t think he would survive another ventilator.

That’s why he wants his message to get to Premier Doug Ford.

“Don’t forget about us and include us in the conversation.”