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Barrie PSW describes 'absolute terror' of staff, residents in COVID-19 ravaged LTC centre

As of Monday afternoon, 53 staff members and 63 residents have tested positive for the virus at the Barrie home; There have also been nine resident deaths

BARRIE - For the families of people living at Roberta Place, as well as those working inside the Essa Road facility, these past several days have been filled with stress and fear. 

For the past two and a half years, Karen Fokkens DeBeer’s mother, Jane, has been living at Roberta Place long-term care home, the facility in south-end Barrie that has been ravaged by COVID-19 in recent weeks, including nine resident deaths. 

DeBeer says she's grateful for the work the Roberta Place staff have been doing amid the current outbreak, which was declared Jan. 8 by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

“They have been great, and with all this going on and to be down staff members, I’m sure it is very trying," DeBeer told BarrieToday

As of Monday afternoon, there had been 53 staff who have tested positive for the virus, and 63 residents. 

Debeer says many families are filled with fear for their relatives who are living inside the Essa Road home, many of whom are alone as the current restrictions have residents in isolation and being cared for in their individual rooms.

DeBeer said she also understands that her family is in a bit of a different situation. Her mom is not only fairly healthy, besides her Alzheimer's diagnosis, but she's on the facility's ground floor so they can visit from the outside.

“We are able to walk right up to the window and call her while we see her,” DeBeer said. “I know other families who are struggling to see their relatives and I can’t imagine. I really feel for them.”

BarrieToday also spoke to a person who has worked at Roberta Place for several years, but who requested anonymity for fear of backlash. 

Inside the facility, the personal support worker (PSW) says the situation is as bad as people assume for staff and residents. 

“It's terror, it's absolute terror,” said the worker. “The majority of a floor I help with has (the virus present) and it makes for very tiring days. We’re exhausted.”

The worker says there are a lot of unknowns, and misinformation that was spread over the weekend, citing much higher positive COVID cases than there actually are, didn't help the situation.  

“Those outside the walls don’t know what’s going on and those inside are tired and doing our best,” the worker said. “We’re working hard to take care of our residents and don’t need misinformation, from either side. Those who say it’s worse than it is scare the families on the outside and those who say it isn’t all bad at all, the anti-masker types, are really ill-informed.”

The worker says they have fellow workers who aren’t seeing their kids and have family calling them constantly to see how they are.

“I know of a friend who had to send her kids to their father’s house while this is going on and her family calls her worried every time they see the news,” they said. “The whole thing spread through Roberta Place like wildfire.”

The quick spread led to assumptions that the outbreak may have been linked to the UK variant of COVID-19, which is reported to be much more contagious.

“They are testing for the UK variant, but I don’t think anyone knows if it is that for sure,” the worker said. “I believe it is more of a precautionary thing right now, just to be safe.”

And despite the know-it-alls on social media, many of whom fuel different rumours and throw out different theories, no one yet has any idea how the virus infiltrated Roberta Place.

Vaccinations were also administered over the weekend for residents and staff, which was a positive step forward for those who haven't become sick. 

“I have a co-worker who is in ICU (the intensive care unit); they’re probably late 40’s, early 50’s. We’re scared; maybe not scared (but) concerned. We’re too busy to be really scared,” said the worker. “I know that I’ve never seen anything like this. I got into this job to help people and while it already didn’t pay what it should, now everyone’s eyes are open to the pay scale.

“I’m glad people around the province and country are seeing the hard work we PSWs put in.”