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Kept apart from elderly father in care home, a B.C. family waits anxiously

Della Gough has a new ritual: looking at the website of Haro Park long-term care home to check the latest numbers of residents who are infected with COVID-19 — or have died.

Gough’s 82-year-old father, William Lomax, lives at the complex care centre in Vancouver’s West End that has become the scene of one of the province’s most troubling coronavirus outbreaks.

“It’s stressful,” Gough said. “My concern is that he could die from that and many other residents there may die as well.”

On Wednesday, Haro Park announced a sixth resident had died from the disease. Over 30 other residents have tested positive for the virus along with more than 20 staff members.

Haro Park Centre is a 154-resident care home in Vancouver’s West End. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Her father is in good health, she explained. She and her two siblings can’t visit him but they talk on the phone.

All they can do is wait and hope for the best like many other anxious families.

Connecting distantly

Across Canada, families have been kept physically apart from loved ones in care homes to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19.

Some are getting creative to remain connected. At Haro Park, Sam Monckton played her trumpet for her father from outside the building.

“It was pretty amazing to be playing outside of his home, because it not only gave him some joy, but it was clearly giving others joy,” Monckton told The Current.

But Gough said for families there remains a sense of powerlessness and not knowing what comes next.

“I feel like my hands are tied behind my back and I can’t do anything to help my dad,” Gough said.

Bruce Hampson has been through that feeling as well. 

His father, Arthur “Bill” Hampson, was the first resident of Haro Park whose death was connected to COVID-19.

“It’s just a horrible virus. Somehow, it got into the home. Somehow, it killed my father,” Hampson said. 

“Would I like to know how it got there? You bet I’d like to know. But can I live without knowing? I guess so.”

‘They should be high priority’

Gough says there is no way of knowing if staff are able to keep up with the new demands of the pandemic. There is nothing she can do to help keep her father’s environment disinfected.

She and her family want more to be done to protect people like her father including Health Minister Adrian Dix taking a personal oversight role.

“These are the most vulnerable people in our society,” she said. “They should be high priority.”

B.C.’s Ministry of Health declined to comment for this story but referred CBC News to a statement from Vancouver Coastal Health, which works in partnership with the Haro Park Society to run the facility.

“We recognize the increased concern families have about the safety of their loved ones,” a health authority spokesperson said in an email. “Our hearts go out to family, friends and staff of Haro Park Centre.”

The authority says a medical health officer is leading the outbreak response at the facility. That response involves increased decontamination, including high-use surfaces like phones. All staff are wearing appropriate protective equipment, the authority said.

An infection control practitioner is also at the facility, it said, and the focus is on preventing COVID-19 spreading to any other residents. 

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