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Coronavirus: 3rd Ontario personal support worker dies from COVID-19

SEIU Healthcare said the worker was an employee at Downsview Long Term Care in North York, located near Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue West.
SEIU Healthcare said the worker was an employee at Downsview Long Term Care in North York, located near Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue West. Google Street View

A North York personal support worker (PSW) has died after contracting the novel coronavirus, marking the third such publicly-known death in Ontario.

SEIU Healthcare, which represents over 60,000 front-line health-care workers in the province, said the worker was an employee at Downsview Long Term Care, located near Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue West.

“Our union is mourning the loss of this beautiful soul who proudly served the North York community for over 24 years and we offer our most sincere condolences to her extended family and her union sisters and brothers who remember her fondly,” Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, said in a statement.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 2nd Ontario personal support worker dies, union pleads for more protection

Ten residents have died of COVID-19 at Downsview Long Term Care, and dozens of residents and staff members have been infected with the virus.

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Stewart criticized the government in her statement, saying: “The third loss of a PSW in less than three weeks … demonstrates ongoing negligence and failures in the long-term care system.”

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“What we’re hearing is a cold, scripted, and coordinated response from long-term care operators: that they’re simply following all guidelines set by the Ontario government. In contrast, we’re hearing a loud chorus of cries from health-care workers asking for masks being withheld due to rationing.”

Global News reached out to the ministry of long term care for a response to Stewart’s claims.

“COVID-19 has caused so much tragedy, but the death of heroes on our front lines are particularly saddening,” a spokesperson for the ministry said in an email.

Coronavirus: Health-care worker union raises concerns around PPE for workers
Coronavirus: Health-care worker union raises concerns around PPE for workers

“We could not be more grateful for the bravery of our personal support workers who are putting their health and safety at risk to help our most vulnerable in the face of this horrible virus.”

The spokesperson went on to say that the government “continues to ensure” that patients and front-line health-care workers have access to the equipment and supplies they need to protect themselves.

“Long-term care staff who have concerns about access to personal protective equipment should speak to their employers,” the spokesperson added.

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James Balcom, the chief operating officer of GEM Health Care Group, which operates Downsview Long Term Care, said in a statement that “preventative measures” have been in place at the facility since March 14.

“The health and safety of our staff and residents is our top priority at all times,” he said.

“All staff across all of our facilities are wearing masks and staff who are caring for a resident that has tested positive for COVID-19 are wearing full PPE. This includes a mask, face shield, gown, and gloves. Residents at Downsview Long Term Care Centre have also been given masks when possible to further reduce the spread.”