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Coronavirus: Another death at McKenzie Towne; families continue coming forward with questions

Provincial health authorities revealed late Wednesday, a 13th resident from McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre has died after testing positive for COVID-19. This comes as more grieving families want to be heard.

Rita Owen was just a month away from her 92nd birthday.

She lived a long life, but that doesn’t mean her family was prepared for it to come to end the way it did on April 3, after contracting COVID-19 amid an outbreak at her Calgary care home.

Her son, Michael, spoke to Global News from his home on Gabriola Island, BC.

“I was given a call by nursing staff to say they felt my mother was at ‘end of life’ and didn’t expect her to last the night,” Owen said.

But she didn’t even make it to the next hour.

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“My gut was telling me that it was coming, I was already mentally preparing for that eventuality,” Owen said. “So when that phone call came, it was not unexpected but it was still a shock.”

Owen is cherishing his last memories with his mom. He came to the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in early March to visit for a couple of days. He didn’t think about it then, but he said, looking back, he wonders why there was little evidence of precautions being taken.

“On the ninth (of March), that was the last day the first employee tested positive worked. That tells me that person was there the day I was there. My mother and I sat in the one wing and it broke out in the block next to hers, but we sat in that lounge with other residents. There was no separation of the wings, people were free to move anywhere they wanted,” Owen said.

Revera, the management company for McKenzie Towne, confirms the employee showed symptoms on March 12 but last worked on the ninth. Dr. Rhonda Collins, Revera’s Chief Medical Health Officer, previously said staff started working with Alberta Health Services when the outbreak started.

“On March 14, Revera implemented pandemic protocols at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, and across our Canadian operations, which include actively screening all visitors and staff for COVID-19,” Dr. Collins said.

“We would also like to be fully transparent about the timelines of this outbreak. After the first confirmation of a positive COVID-19 test, McKenzie Towne was declared to be on outbreak on March 23 and the home was fully locked.

“We monitored residents for symptoms and put them on isolation when they presented. We screened staff and did not knowingly let people work who were symptomatic.”

Revera did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Since the outbreak started, there have been 13 deaths at the care home, the latest one having been announced on Wednesday. There have been 1,423 cases of COVID-19 and 29 deaths in Alberta.

“I don’t think staff had enough support,” Owen said. “I can’t commend them enough for sticking it out through this but I really wonder where the province was, why there wasn’t external help rushed in.”

Owen feels there should be a review, in due time, for now he wants to focus on grieving and supporting those still in the fight for their lives.

“I don’t think this is the time to point fingers and lay blame,” Owen said. “When all this has passed and we look back at how things are handled, I think a serious look has to be taken how Revera reacted and their processes.”

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