05/05/2020 15:06 EDT | Updated 05/05/2020 17:12 EDT

SEIU Healthcare Calls For Investigations After Losing 3 Workers To COVID-19

“Negligent operators” should be held responsible, the union’s president said.

An Ontario health-care union is calling for criminal investigations and public inquiries into COVID-19-related deaths in the province’s long-term care homes. 

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare says Toronto and Peel Region police should open criminal investigations and the Progressive Conservative government and Ontario’s chief coroner need to do public inquiries. 

Both frontline workers and the elderly in our long-term care system are saying the same thing: keep us alive,” the union’s president Sharleen Stewart said in a press release. 

“That’s why we’re calling for urgent investigations that will keep people alive and hold negligent operators responsible for the death of our healthcare heroes.”

As of Tuesday morning, 1,003 long-term care residents had died with COVID-19 in Ontario. There are outbreaks of the deadly disease in 218 of the province’s 626 homes, according to numbers collected by Public Health Ontario.


Courtesy SEIU Healthcare
Christine Mandegarian and Arlene Reid both died from COVID-19 while working as personal support workers in Ontario's long-term care sector. Their union wants to see public inquiries and investigations into possible criminal negligence.

SEIU Healthcare has lost three of its members to the virus. Personal support workers (PSW) Christine Mandegarian of Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Ont., Sharon Roberts of Downsview Long Term Care in North York, Ont., and Arlene Reid of Victorian Order of Nurses Peel, all died after contracting the coronavirus, union spokesperson Corey Johnson told HuffPost Canada. 

Mandegarian was 54 and had worked at Altamont for 31 years, according to the Toronto Star

“She would do whatever she could to make you feel welcomed in her home at any time. She gave her heart to what she did and paid the ultimate price,” a family member told the newspaper.

Roberts was 59 and had worked as a PSW for 24 years. 

“She treated these residents like family,” one colleague told CP24. “She was amazing to them.”

Reid was 51 and worked three jobs, The Globe and Mail reports. She was remembered by family as “sassy but very caring.”

Neither Premier Doug Ford nor Health Minister Christine Elliott said whether they would call a public inquiry when asked about the union’s demand Tuesday. 

“We are doing everything in our power, not just ourselves — everyone is doing everything in their power to make sure that people in long-term care have sufficient [personal protective equipment],” Ford said. 

“When they call, they get it. We’ve been able to move some hospital staff, front-line health-care workers over to long-term care. We’ve called the military in. We’re pulling out all stops on this.”

On the contrary, Reid’s family told the Globe that she was not allowed to wear protective equipment to her job at Heritage House Retirement Home in Mississauga and was scared to go to work. 

Elliott listed other measures that have been taken, for instance only allowing visitors if their family member is “imminently” expected to pass away. 

“Many steps have been taken and we will continue to take those steps until these outbreaks are under control,” she said. 

Const. Heather Cannon of the Peel Regional Police said the force is aware of the documentation from SEIU Healthcare and is reviewing it.

Toronto police did not respond to a request for comment.

This story has been updated with comment from Peel police.