A man who worked at the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre has died.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees confirmed one of its members who worked at the site died after contracting COVID-19.
“It’s extremely tragic and devastating to not only his family but to the co-workers that he works alongside, to all of us at the union too, we definitely feel a loss when a member passes away tragically,” said Susan Slade, vice-president of AUPE.
The AUPE said it’s believed the man was in his 50s.
Global News has confirmed it was Roger Maxwell, a correctional peace officer.
The union doesn’t know if he contracted the virus while at work.
However, the facility has been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak and is currently on Alberta Health’s outbreak list.
The union described the outbreak as “significant.”
“The workers that are there working the front lines are our true heroes,” Slade said.
“We say that all the time but we have to treat them like heroes too. We have to ensure that every time that they go to work, they have proper PPE, that they have safe working conditions, that the government is stepping up to the plate and ensuring that they are safe when they go to their work sites.”
As of Tuesday, there were 27 active cases involving FSCC inmates and eight active cases involving staff, according to Alberta Health Services.
“It’s hard to go to work when you are dealing with an outbreak at the best of times and then to have this tragedy put on top of that… Members are going in there, they’re doing their job, they’re doing the best that they can to ensure that they are safe, that the inmates are safe, as well as then going home and ensuring that their families are safe,” Slade said.
“It’s a very scary time to be a front-line worker anywhere in Alberta where you’re dealing with an outbreak.”
She said this is the second AUPE member to pass away in the pandemic.
“Occupational Health and Safety is aware of an incident related to the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Facility,” spokesperson Natasha McKenzie told Global News in a statement Friday.
“As the incident is under investigation, we cannot release any additional information.”
The AUPE represents more than 90,000 workers, tens of thousands who work on the front lines in health care, correctional facilities, government services and education.
“This is a tragic, tragic incident that’s happened,” Slade stressed.
“We need to start realizing that COVID is not particular on who it goes after. We need to follow the rules. We need to wear our masks, wash our hands.
“We need to protect each other from this. This is just a reminder that it is happening and people are passing away.
“We need to, as Albertans, step up to the plate and do our part and ensure that front-line workers are being protected.”
As of Thursday, 666 Albertans have died from COVID-19.
In a statement, the justice ministry confirmed a correctional peace officer who worked at the FSCC recently passed away.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones at this very tough time, along with those who worked with the officer.”
The government said an Employee and Family Assistance Program is available to the family and colleagues along with peer support resources.
“Correctional peace officers are professionals who work in an often challenging environment. With the pandemic, their work as with other front-line professionals has become even more challenging. They continue to meet this challenge head-on, which reflects their dedication to keeping colleagues, inmates and Albertans safe.
“Family and friends have an important role in supporting officers with their work, and we thank them for supporting this officer’s service as part of the provincial corrections community.”