‘He’s at peace,’ says sister of man whose death is tied to COVID-19 outbreak at long-term care home

A Brandon woman is mourning the loss of her brother, whose death has been linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Manitoba Developmental Centre.

Mabel Ramsey says her brother Ronald Starzyk, 62, died on Nov. 26 after testing positive for the virus — just four days after the outbreak was declared.

“He hasn’t had an easy life, but he’s at peace,” Ramsay said.

The outbreak in the Lawnside ward of the long-term care facility for people with disabilities has resulted in the infections of 20 people, including 13 residents, as well as one other death. There are 122 residents living at the facility.

Starzyk had just received his third COVID-19 vaccine injection two days before he became sick and was admitted to hospital, Ramsay said.

The Manitoba Developmental Centre in Portage la Prairie is home to 122 residents. The outbreak caused 20 people to test positive, including 13 residents. Two people died, including Ronald Starzyk. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Prior to that, Ramsay says, she was worried about visiting him and possibly making her brother ill because he was frail.

“Because of his issues, you didn’t want to bring anything in … but I guess it got there anyways,” she said. “You want to protect them, is my way of looking at it, but it makes it hard for some people who have [family] who are really ill.”

Starzyk died in hospital in Portage la Prairie shortly after being admitted.

“The fact that he only suffered a week was a blessing in disguise,” Ramsay said.

The Manitoba Development Centre is set to close in the next three years, with its residents transitioning into community living.

Although there have been allegations that some residents faced abuse while living at the centre, Ramsay says she believes her brother was treated well there.

She says staff would drive him to visit their mother in Shoal Lake and took calls regularly from family inquiring about his condition.

A provincial spokesperson said in an email the centre followed all pandemic response protocols relevant to long-term care, and the outbreak was confined to the one ward.

There are four other outbreaks in long-term care facilities currently, the biggest at Third Crossing Manor, where 71 people became infected and seven deaths resulted. Only four of the cases are considered active at this time, the province’s dashboard says.

Ramsay says the family will be holding a funeral for her brother this summer, when everyone can be together. 

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