A Winnipeg man at the embattled Maples Personal Care Home has died, despite his daughter’s best efforts at keeping him safe.
Eddie Calisto-Tavares was staying alone at a hotel and making daily visits to the home while her ailing dad, 88-year-old Manuel, was suffering from COVID-19, as well as severe dementia and other health issues.
At the time, she told 680 CJOB he no longer remembered how to speak English and felt abandoned without a recognizable voice or face, so Calisto-Tavares took it upon herself to help. She was given special permission by the home’s owner, Revera, to become the designated caregiver for her father.
Her efforts, however, were in vain, as Manuel has become one of the latest Manitobans to die during the pandemic after testing positive for the virus two weeks ago.
His daughter is calling for immediate changes to the care home system in this province — something she says should have been done months ago, when health officials first knew about the coronavirus.
She said she’s not, however, placing blame on the workers at Maples.
“When we first started at the Maples — and because I am very present in my dad’s life, and so are my brothers — the staff was wonderful, but they were already coping with less than they needed,” she said.
“When COVID got it, then they were just overwhelmed. They were really trying to do their best. I was always very mindful of that.”
Calisto-Tavares said that to prevent future tragedies, care home operators and the province need to re-examine contingency plans for a situation like this — what happens when there aren’t enough staff? What’s the backup plan? How many additional people have been hired and are being trained?
“Our government has failed miserably. We were so eager to be the fastest to open, and people let their guard down,” she said.
“People didn’t think about the impact they would have on the elderly, especially. It was not if COVID got into personal care homes, it was when it got in.
“I want Manitobans that have anyone in a care home or anyone that is elderly, that has a compromised immune system to join my fight, and the fight of all the families — not just at the Maples, because it’s happening all across the city.”
While she said she will always have fond memories of her father — a proud Portuguese-Canadian who came to this country at age 39 with his wife and six children — she’s angry that the situation was allowed to occur in the first place and that his death could have been prevented.
“We had six months. We knew this was coming and we weren’t ready.”
Controversy has swirled around Revera, the company at the centre of the care home crisis, with the family of another resident who died of COVID-19 — 99-year-old Ethel Lewsey — putting together a class-action lawsuit in the pursuit of justice for her and the other residents who died at the care home.
“It’s terrible. The remorse, sadness. The remorse — I feel guilty because I put her in that place. I trusted them,” Lewsey’s son, Lawrence, told Global News.
“I blame the leaders in Revera and the government and they need to stand up and hold themselves accountable for the lack of support for both staff and the elderly.”
It was revealed earlier this week that Revera had left the home significantly understaffed when an incident occurred that saw seven deaths related to the virus in 48 hours.
The company had initially said there were no staffing issues, only to retract that when the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority called it out on “inaccurate information.”
The company issued a statement Monday, apologizing and saying it’s doing everything it can to control the spread of COVID-19 in the facility.
Manitoba’s health minister, Cameron Friesen, told 680 CJOB Thursday afternoon that the province is starting an investigation into Maples and other affected care homes.
Friesen questioned whether the operator, Revera, was maintaining appropriate staffing levels based on provincial standards, and said he hopes to have more information as early as Friday.
“Last weekend, when it quickly became public that paramedics had to respond at Maples, we worked very fast to understand what is going on here,” the minister said.
“I’d had a briefing the day before and there was no indication the situation was poised to deteriorate rapidly.
“There are answers owed… we need an investigation. Manitobans have a lot of questions.”
Friesen said while the province has not yet committed to stepping in and taking over the operation of the care homes, “there’s nothing off the table.”
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