A Toronto family is calling for more protections for Ontario healthcare workers after a father of three died of coronavirus this past week.
The family of sixty-one-year-old personal support worker Leonard Rodriquez alleges his death could have been prevented had he been given proper personal protective (PPE) equipment at the outset of the pandemic.
“All the way from him being a worker in the healthcare system, all the way to his dying breath, there were so many people dropping the ball,” said Terena Rodriquez, his daughter. “We don’t understand how so many people dropped the ball…this was a traumatizing thing for all of us.”
UNIFOR, the union that represents some healthcare workers in Ontario said Leonard was one of six personal support workers to contract COVID-19.
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His family said the 29-year healthcare veteran was employed at the Access Independent Living Services on Eglinton Avenue West.
His wife Dorothy said Leonard was constantly trying to source PPE gear for himself and his colleagues. He ultimately found some PPE at a local dollar store.
“I said: ‘why didn’t you come home? why didn’t you walk away from the job and come home?'” Dorothy said. “He said ‘but I have to go look after the client,’ so I go to the dollar store…this is what he gets.”
The executive director for Access Independent Living Services said they are “heartbroken” about Leonard’s death and said staff have access to proper PPE.
“PPE has been, and is, available and is used when necessary in accordance with public health guidelines and directives,” said Michael Mathieson, executive director at the facility. “Throughout this pandemic, we have been providing timely, transparent communications to all staff and consumers.”
Leonard was sent home on April 6 after possibly being exposed to COVID-19, his family said. He died exactly one month later.
On May 4, the family said they drove Leo to Humber River Hospital but were shocked when hours later, he was sent home. They said he was unable to breathe or stand up properly. He was also coughing uncontrollably, was pale and disoriented.
On May 6, Dorothy said she found Leo unresponsive in his room.
It was up to the Rodriquez family to find a funeral home to pick up the body, that had been laying on the floor for five hours.
“My son is sitting on the chair watching his father on the floor…when are they going to come to pick up my dad,” said Dorothy.
“He was sent home two days before he died, so this may have been preventable,” Terena said.
CityNews reached out to Humber River Hospital. A spokesperson said they were saddened to hear of Leonard’s death.
“We, as an organization are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Leonard Rodriquez,” said Joe Gorman, director of public affairs. “Standard hospital policy includes clinical assessments for safe discharge, and instructions to return to the Emergency Department for any reason. We send our sincerest condolences to his family at this difficult time.”
Leonard Rodriquez is the fourth PSW in the GTA to die from COVID-19.
It’s a list that also includes Christine Mandagarian, Arlene Reid, and Sharon Roberts.
All these workers have one thing in common: they are all people of colour working in an industry disproportionately represented by minorities.
Leo’s family– now in self-isolation– said they are unable to attend the funeral, of the man, who was ready to help anyone, anytime.
“We won’t get to honour him the way we want to, but this is why we’re doing these interviews,” said Terena.
Watch: Union calls for inquiry into PSW deaths
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