Coronavirus: Broken Heart Brothers Reflect as Parents Die 9 Days Interval at Toronto Nursing Home


When brothers Rod and Greg McVeigh started writing obituaries for their 77-year-old mother, Joan McVeigh, they never imagined that they would include their father Joseph in the same death announcement.

Nine days after their mother died from COVID-19 complications at the Seven Oaks long-term care home on April 7, their 77-year-old father – a retired Toronto police detective – died suddenly.

“” It shouldn’t have happened to your mother. It’s not good, “recalls his devastated father Greg after watching Joan’s virtual funeral on April 8 from her room in the long-term care home in Scarborough where the couple lived in adjoining rooms connected to a shared bathroom.

“He was crying and said,” I miss your mother. I miss her so much. I have to find a way to continue. »»

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Greg said he and his brother hoped their father hadn’t caught the virus, but they weren’t sure. They said they sent an email to the facility staff asking that their father be tested and the results came back negative.

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Then he died suddenly of a heart attack. It was only after the autopsy that they discovered that Joseph had contracted COVID-19.

” I could not believe it. It was just surreal, “said Rod.

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Greg said they didn’t plan on what happened.

“They had dementia, but they knew who we were and they knew each other. They were watching movies together, having coffee and cookies together, and my mom was getting around pretty well – they were both very happy, “said Greg.

The McVeigh brothers had read about the coronavirus epidemic in Europe and thought that if it came here, the authorities would be prepared.

Greg said he wrote an email to the home manager on March 11 and asked what precautions were being taken. He said he never received a direct response.

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READ MORE: Families of Toronto Nursing Home Residents Feel Anxiety, Grief and Gratitude

Just over a week later, on March 19, the brothers learned from media reports that a resident of the Seven Oaks long-term care home tested positive for COVID-19.

The house had already closed its doors to all but essential visitors on March 14 – the same day as the couple’s 56th wedding anniversary.

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“I contacted the city of Toronto through the mayor, John Tory. I have contacted several politicians by email and Instagram, “said Greg.

“I took articles from the Center of Disease Control showing that people in nursing homes should not be in the common room and I sent it out and tried to communicate with them (Seven Oaks) to that my mother is not in the dining room and to be isolated.

READ MORE: 22 dead in Scarborough long-term care home

“I also called Seven Oaks and said,” Can you separate my mom and not have her in the dining room? “And asked him why they were still doing this.”

Greg explained that the home responded by telling him that the resident who tested positive for COVID-19 was on the third floor, not with his parents.

He said that it was only five days later that COVID-19 had spread to his parents’ floor and that his mother had been infected that things had started to change.

Greg expressed concern that at the start of the epidemic, facility staff may not be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. In addition, it was not until April 14 that staff in long-term care homes in Ontario were prohibited from working in more than one residence.

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“I think some sort of investigation or public inquiry would certainly find all of this information. We are really lost for all the things that may have gone wrong – probably more than I think, ”he said.

Thirty-five residents of Seven Oaks died due to complications from COVID-19 and 72 other residents tested positive for the virus in Seven Oaks, according to figures provided by the authorities. In addition, 25 staff members are ill.

Asked about the situation, Dr. Vinita Dubey, assistant medical officer of health in Toronto, told Global News in a statement Monday evening that the epidemic in Seven Oaks was declared on March 19 after confirmation of the first case of COVID-19.

READ MORE: 8 more COVID-19 deaths in Toronto nursing home, 101 confirmed and probable cases

She stated that several measures were put in place soon after, such as signage, restricting staff from working at more than one facility, the wearing of PPE by staff, testing all staff and residents on an affected floor, filter staff twice a day, restrict entry and visitors and increase cleaning.

Peter Puiatti, administrator of the Seven Oaks Long-term Care Home, said that when it came to taking measures such as banning joint meals, staff were trying to strike a balance between infection control controls and preserving the daily life of residents.

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“COVID-19 outbreaks have been successfully limited to one floor or one unit in many long-term care homes. This has been achieved through measures such as keeping all residents on their own floor / unit, and having staff work on one floor / unit, to reduce the risk of spread to other floors. or units, “he wrote in a statement to Global News. Monday evening, addition of residents to an affected floor in isolation for at least 14 days.

“The implementation of these measures on floors where there is no COVID-19 case must balance the effectiveness of this measure with the major impact on the general conditioning and mental health of residents.” “

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Meanwhile, the McVeigh brothers said they were at peace knowing that their parents were together again, but that they thought their lives had been unnecessarily interrupted by a lack of pandemic planning.

“I knew that a neighborhood like Seven Oaks or a long-term care home could be somewhere that could be dangerous enough for someone who lives there, so I imagine they would have taken all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of these residents, ”said Greg.

Rod added that he hoped their deaths would not be in vain and that the government learned from his mistakes.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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