Doctor volunteering at Barrie LTC home during outbreak wants more provincial help

By News staff

Dr. Kelley Wright is one of several doctors selflessly volunteering at a Barrie long-term care home currently in the midst of a massive and deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

As Wright told CityNews on Monday, the community has rallied around Roberta Place Long Term Care home, with the Red Cross, area hospitals, and physicians like herself putting their lives at risk to help vulnerable residents.

“We are all running into the fire, not from it, there’s always risks there,” she acknowledged.

But Wright believes the province should be taking a larger role in coordinating efforts at LTC homes ravaged by the COVID-19 virus.

She believes a provincial task force should be set up that would deploy services to LTC homes dealing with outbreaks.

“During my sleepless nights on the weekend, I sort of had this idea that maybe we could look at some sort of provincially-led task force that would provide outreach to some of these homes in Ontario when these types of crises start.

“It would be nice to see something spearheaded by the provincial government as opposed to relying on the local homes or local community hospitals to try and staff.”

The Ministry of Health maintains it is fully engaged when an outbreak takes place.

“When homes are in outbreak, the ministry works directly alongside the local public health unit, the local health integration network and all of our health sector partners to stabilize them and return them to normal operations,” it said in a statement to CityNews. “With our partners, we are taking action to support the homes to improve infection prevention and control measures, shore up staffing and ensure adequate supplies of PPE.

“We remain committed to doing everything we can, along with our partners, to help stabilize the homes and have them return to normal operations.”

As of Sunday, nine of the 122 residents at Roberta Place have died during the outbreak. Sixty-two more residents and 43 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s an overwhelming situation that has staff and volunteers like Wright working around the clock, and she thinks the province could better coordinate such a heroic effort.

Relying on its wealth of expertise and data, she says the province can write the “playbook” on dealing with LTC outbreaks.

“They have delegation over the local public health units,” she added. “It would be a great way they could be at the top of the organization chart and then dispatch out as needed.”

RELATED: Red Cross deployed to Barrie LTC after massive COVID-19 outbreak

Meanwhile, provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on Premier Doug Ford to respond to the urgent situation at the facility and others across the province.

“We’re asking Doug Ford not to let these people continue to suffer without the province doing anything to ease their struggle and help save lives,” she said in the release Sunday night.

The province released a statement Monday, thanking local health units and volunteers and adding: “We remain committed to doing everything we can, along with our partners, to help stabilize the home and have it return to normal operations.”

“The single most important thing Ontarians can do right now to protect our most vulnerable is to stay at home. As we continue our vaccine rollout, this is our best defense against this virus.”


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