Family member, resident fearful amid COVID-19 spread in Edmundston care home

·4 min read

Rachel Bérubé has not seen her 93-year-old father in two years.

The pandemic forced her to cancel plans for a visit last April. Now, as COVID-19 spreads rapidly through his Edmundston care home, she fears the worst.

"I don't know when I'm going to be holding him in my arms. I don't know if it's going to happen one day because of COVID-19," she said.

Manoir Belle Vue has reported 50 cases of the virus as part of an outbreak. The home has 61 beds, according to provincial inspection reports.

It has confirmed 33 residents and 17 employees have tested positive. The death of a resident was announced by the home on Thursday.

Bérubé's father has tested negative twice. She said no one in Le Pavillon, his part of the complex, is positive. She hopes he stays healthy long enough to receive the vaccine.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

The Manoir announced plans this weekend to administer the first dose to all residents and staff who have tested negative.

The first cases in the special care home were discovered on Jan. 20.

'I don't want him to suffer'

Bérubé is originally from Saint-Jacques in the Edmundston area but has been living in Timmins, Ont., for 30 years. The distance has made the outbreak more difficult.

Her father is doing well and staying in good spirits by writing in his journal and doing crossword puzzles. She has four family members in the area who visit through a window.

Bérubé experienced the death of a family member from afar at the start of the pandemic.

Her uncle died in a special care home in Montreal during the early days. While he was never tested, she believes his death might have been related to COVID.

Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada
Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada

Her father in Manoir Belle Vue has a lung condition.

"I don't want my dad to be alone if something happens," she said.

Bérubé worries he would struggle if he catches the virus.

"They go on the machine and they have a hard time breathing," she said. "I don't want him to suffer."

'It brings out tears'

A former Edmundston mayor is among the residents at Manoir Belle Vue infected with COVID-19.

Gérald Allain, 82, learned he tested positive on Jan. 22. He is experiencing some symptoms of the virus, such as a cough.

"There are moments that are a little more difficult, and especially with strong symptoms, I would say we are weak," he told Radio-Canada.

Allain said staff are changing their personal protective equipment before entering a new room. Rooms are disinfected several times per day.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

He talks with his daughter in Quebec by FaceTime every day and said the outbreak has forced him and other residents to reflect on the possibility of death.

"When we go to sleep we think about it, sometimes it brings out tears," Allain said.

"I'm convinced I'm going to be able to leave. But the risk, the possibility still passes through my head."

Staffing shortage

The Manoir Belle Vue's kitchen has been closed since Thursday, according to an update on the home's Facebook page.

The restaurant of the Sheraton Four Points Hotel has been preparing the meals, and management posted a message asking for volunteers to help deliver them.

Starting Tuesday, a team of volunteers at the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick will begin preparing meals.

The director of the care home did not return calls and emails from CBC News, but posted a statement on Facebook.

"After the closing of the kitchen and receiving several messages of concern, we are away. There are some delays in the schedule for delivering meals," management wrote. "Things should rapidly become in order."

Bérubé said she is hearing about major staffing shortages in the facility, as employees who tested positive or were potentially exposed are self-isolating.

Her father has experienced some issues with meals with the changes to kitchen operations. He was served macaroni and tomatoes that he can't eat because of dietary issues, she said.

She is concerned complications will happen with the new plan.

Bérubé works in a care home in Ontario and believes the outbreak could have happened anywhere. Cases have been confirmed in other facilities in the Edmundston area.

The staffing shortage has made things challenging and her father now has to bathe himself.

Bérubé said the province should consider bringing the army to help, which was done in Quebec.

"The residents built our country, they built this place, they're senior citizens that have worked hard their whole lives," she said. "They would deserve the help of the army."