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OSMH staff 'step up' to help lead Barrie home through dire outbreak

'It's truly inspiring,' that weary staff at OSMH have agreed to help, says official; To date, nine residents of Roberta Place have died
OSMH spirit stumpo
Soldiers’ President and CEO, Carmine Stumpo, says hospital staff have been asked to take a leadership role to help Roberta Place, where a deadly COVID-19 outbreak has occurred. Contributed photo

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

“They’re so woefully understaffed,” said Jennifer Raedts, referencing Roberta Place. “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.

She is one of nine residents at the Barrie facility who has died since an outbreak was declared Jan. 8.

As of today, there are 63 confirmed cases among residents at the home and 53 cases among staff of the facility.

It’s why the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit issued an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act for Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) to assume temporary leadership of the facility.

That order mandates sufficient staffing at all times to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure the development of an effective staffing recruitment plan for if/when that’s necessary.

“OSMH is providing leadership for Roberta Place and will not be taking over operations of the facility,” said Carmine Stumpo, president and CEO of OSMH. “Management functions will remain with the long-term care facility operator.”  

Stumpo noted the hospital has worked closely with local long-term care homes and other congregate living facilities throughout this pandemic.   

In this case, OSMH "will be partnering with Royal Victoria Hospital, County of Simcoe, Red Cross and other agencies as this will require a full team-based approach to support residents and families,” he told OrilliaMatters

Stumpo could not say how many OSMH staffers would be involved and noted most of the work would be able to be done offsite.

“It’s difficult to provide a precise number (of employees),” he said. “Some staff are moving into this role on more of a temporary, full-time basis, while others are providing assistance while still minding duties that they have here at OSMH.”

Stumpo concedes it’s difficult to ask staff to do more - especially in such a dire situation amid fears that a more lethal variant of the coronavirus, brought here from the UK, could be in the home.

“Our staff, while very resilient, are also getting tired, just like everyone else,” said Stumpo. “Amazingly though, when they hear that they are needed to help, they step up to the task without hesitation. It’s truly inspiring.”

Roberta Place officials are thankful for the help.

“Since the beginning of this outbreak, we have been fortunate to have an outpouring of support from countless health-system partners,” said Stephanie Barber, the facility’s community relations co-ordinator. 

“When the voluntary agreement was offered to Roberta Place through OSMH, we welcomed the opportunity, as we believe in the added support it will afford our home as we work to contain and overcome the COVID-19 outbreak," Barber added. 

Barber said some of the assistance will ensure that staffing, training, and equipment and supplies are in place so that the facility can continue to respond to and control the outbreak.

As of Monday, all residents and staff at the facility had been tested for COVID-19. Testing is also underway to determine if the UK variant strain is part of this outbreak.

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. 

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.

--With files from Marg. Bruineman and Shawn Gibson