Ontario health-care worker died less than 24 hours after testing positive for COVID-19, widower says
TORONTO -- The husband of an Ontario health-care worker who died after contracting COVID-19 said his wife was a great mother who loved her job.
Christine Mandegarian, a personal support worker for 31 years, worked at Sienna Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Ont. She died on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after testing positive for the virus.
"She was a happy woman, a great mother, a great wife and a great companion," Paul Mandegarian told CTV News Toronto over the phone Friday.
"My wife was a great person and a very hard working woman, she loved her job."
He said she worked her last shift at the long-term care home on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Services Employees International Union Healthcare (SEIU) said colleagues described Mandegarian as a dedicated, loving and compassionate woman.
"Christine will be missed and remembered," SEIU said in a statement. "We're offering Christine’s family whatever support they need during this extremely difficult time."
"This tragic death is a difficult reminder of the very real dangers health-care workers face in the selfless delivery of care for Ontario families, as well as the support and protection that they need immediately."
On Friday morning, dozens of vehicles circled the facility, honking their horns and holding signs of support after learning of Mandegarian’s death. She is the second health-care worker in Ontario to die of the virus.
The union also confirmed that a second staff member from the same facility is in serious condition after testing positive for COVID-19.
Union believes Mandegarian contracted virus at work
SEIU President Sharleen Stewart said she believes Mandegarian, who was in her 50s, was exposed to the virus at the home and that at least 18 other staff members have contracted the virus.
A spokesperson for the facility said there are 79 residents and 21 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, adding that a total of 16 residents have died of the virus.
"I am just so angered tonight because I really feel like this did not have to happen," Stewart said Thursday.
Stewart said workers at the facility had told her there had been no proper communication from management.
She said proper personal protective equipment was not used, and infection controls were not put in place, adding that the management misinformed them that workers were using N95 masks.
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit the facility, Stewart said the union had to argue with the employer to implement measures.
"People deserve the right to be safe at work and know that they may be in a dangerous situation," Stewart said.
She is demanding the government make stronger directives to prevent more deaths in long-term care homes.
"(Existing) guidelines are killing people," Stewart said.
In a statement, Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said the death is "saddening."
"I am devastated by the loss of one our brave personal support workers to this terrible virus. My thoughts are with all of the front-line workers across Ontario who -- even now -- are giving so much to keep our loved ones safe," Fullerton said.
On Wednesday, the province introduced an enhanced plan to fight the spread of COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes, including more aggressive testing for residents and staff.
The province also issued an emergency order prohibiting long-term care staff from working at multiple facilities. It will take effect on April 22.
With files from CP24’s Bryann Aguilar