'Came in like a ghost and it just went through so fast': Long-term care staff on what it's like working through an outbreak
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- For 246 days, Menno Place was winning.
And then suddenly, COVID-19 found its way inside the Abbotsford care facility.
“We tried so hard to keep this virus out,” said Mary Jane Vallee, a resident care co-ordinator at Menno Home.
“It came in like a ghost and it just went through so fast,” she said in an interview reflecting back on a year since a public health emergency was declared in B.C.
“We took all the precautions,” said her co-worker, Debbie Jamison, who also works as a resident care co-ordinator.
“We were constantly debriefing with each other and trying to figure out, why is it still spreading?”
The disease infected both residents and staff, including Jamison.
“I was off for two weeks with COVID and every time I heard another resident passed away, it was horrible,” she recalled.
Some workers moved into hotels to isolate. One care aide lived in a tent.
So many staff would fall ill, the home hired residents' family members to help with cleaning and delivering meals.
Jamison says the separation of residents from their family was hard.
“For the most part, they understood the restrictions,” Jamison told CTV News.
“But having to… phone them to say, 'Your loved one has COVID,' and you had to call them and say they were getting worse… it was very difficult,” Jamison said, describing the outbreak as “heart-wrenching.”
Vallee says the death of the first resident hit her particularly hard.
“I just started crying because I knew that it was real…and I knew what was going to happen. And every person that passed away, it impacted me a lot,” Vallee explained.
The home would be in outbreak for 67 days.
Sixteen residents would die.
“It’s hard to grieve. There's not a lot of closure. There’s no funerals,” Vallee said.
Menno Place staff say they were encouraged by the support of residents' families and the community, which sewed hundreds of masks and gowns when the home wasn’t able to purchase them early on in the pandemic.
Staff say even though residents are like family, they know how much the seniors have missed their real families and they look forward to them being reunited.