Family says late Roberta Place resident received 'wonderful' care despite outbreak pressures

·5 min read

Family members of a Roberta Place resident who died Friday evening say the Barrie long-term care home was clearly in need of help.

“They’re so woefully understaffed,” said Jennifer Raedts. “It’s like a ghost town in there.”

Her mother-in-law, Jean Raedts, passed away Friday evening at the age of 79. She had medical complications prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19 the previous Sunday.

Over the weekend, the NDP called for the military to be summoned to help out at the Essa Road facility in south-end Barrie.

Also over the weekend, Simcoe-Muskoka medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner issued an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to ensure Roberta Place's long-term care home gets the support necessary to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared on Jan. 8. Staff from Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital will take a lead role.

As of Sunday, nine COVID-positive Roberta Place residents have died. The health unit reported on Monday there were also 63 positive cases of the virus among residents at the home as well as 53 confirmed cases among team members.

Gardner’s order also directs that there be “sufficient staffing at all times to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak at the institution and ensure the development of an effective staffing recruitment plan for if/when same is necessary.”

Meanwhile, 71 Roberta Place residents who were not cases or ill, as well as eligible staff were vaccinated against COVID-19 on-site Saturday through the health unit’s mobile immunization unit. Staff and essential caregivers of all long-term care homes in Simcoe-Muskoka have been receiving their vaccination at the COVID-19 Immunization Clinic in Barrie, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit advised.

Members of the Canadian Red Cross have also been at the Essa Road facility assisting in the COVID outbreak. Additionally, staff from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) were on-site last week and members of its infection prevention and control team are on site today. RVH's swab team is expected to return on Tuesday.

On Twitter today, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said he was heartened to hear that a major effort is now underway to provide co-ordinated support, which also includes the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care, the County of Simcoe and Georgian College.

“While extensive support is being provided, it is an incredibly difficult time for the residents, staff and families of Roberta Place," the mayor tweeted. "I can only imagine the pain for all involved. The best thing we can do to help is do our part to stop community spread so it doesn't reach (long-term care)."

Jennifer Raedts said the care her mother-in-law received at Roberta Place has been wonderful since she first arrived there following a stroke about 18 months ago.

And that care continued during the last two days of the senior’s life, although Raedts said she saw only one of the regular staff members she’s come to know, and those who were working there were clearly quite busy.

Raedts’ husband, Gary, became his mom’s essential caregiver in December and was the sole family member permitted to see her and help her in her room until a full lockdown was issued and visitors were prohibited.

“They’ve been wonderful about sending emails… to keep us updated,” said the daughter-in-law.

As the deadly virus entered the facility, family members were notified and visitations stopped on Jan. 8. The Raedts were also asked if they could once again test Jean for COVID-19.

The following Sunday, they received a call that Jean had tested positive for the virus and she was placed in isolation. She had a low-grade fever, but it was gone the next day and there were no obvious symptoms.

On Thursday, however, Jean took a turn for the worse. Roberta Place staff reported to the family that her health was declining and they were permitted to spend her last moments with her, providing her with comfort care.

Four of her five sons, along with Jennifer Raedts, were permitted to go into her room two at a time, “which was very nice, for all of us to say goodbye and spend some time with her," she said. “And the staff was amazing.”

When family members entered the facility Thursday and Friday, they had to undergo COVID screening accompanied by a questionnaire and had their temperatures taken. They were instructed to sanitize their hands and phones and then given masks, shields, gowns and gloves and instructed to go directly to Jean’s room.

Over the course of those two days, they followed the strict protocol every time they entered and exited the facility, leaving only to go to their car to wait while the other family members went inside to spend time with Jean.

“Someone was always with her the last two days,” said Raedts.

Jean Raedts, born Georgina Kinsella, had spent her entire life in Barrie. Her husband, Harry, came here from Holland during his teens and passed away 37 years ago, leaving Jean — as she was known — to raise the boys on her own.

“She was a pretty amazing lady,” said her daughter-in-law.

Jean met Harry when they were both teenagers working at the General Electric plant in Barrie, but Jean spent most of her career as a receptionist in a local real estate office.

“She was the quintessential mother,” said her daughter-in-law. “She loved her children and her grandchildren and would have done anything for them.”

Raedts said her own family was blessed to have Jean living with them for 18 years before she moved into Roberta Place where she was comfortable and well cared for.

Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com