Son of resident at Toronto nursing home dealing with coronavirus outbreak asks for military support

Standing two metres away from the foot of his mother’s stretcher outside her care home, Azeem Shah told his mother he loves her, that the family is wishing her the best and they’re hopeful for a phone call.

Nyla Shah, a five-year resident of Seven Oaks Long-Term Care Home, was taken to hospital Wednesday night for a urinary tract infection.

Her son said the UTI is now being treated with antibiotics, so she’s allowed to return home. Normally this visit would be too short, but for Shah, it was meaningful.

“She said she loved me,” Shah said, just moments after two paramedics wheeled his mother through the sliding doors of Seven Oaks.

It’s been six weeks since Seven Oaks stopped allowing visitors.

Shah said before the pandemic, his siblings and father would visit his 60-year-old mother at least twice a day. His father would visit every night and the kids rotated through the morning shifts.

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Then three weeks ago, the family got the news they were fearing.

Nyla, who suffers from progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a rare viral disease of the brain, tested positive for COVID-19, leaving her confused and delirious.

As a result, Nyla was not able to call her family and talk.

Nyla Shah is one of 73 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. Another 32 of the home’s reisidents have died.

Her son said he worries that because the Scarborough nursing home has also reported that 25 staff have tested positive, that they are understaffed.

“Two of my siblings, my brother and his wife are nurse practitioners so we’ve been trying to exert everything we can to get help here because that’s what we really need.”

Ford announced Wednesday that the military has been called in to help five long-term care homes in the province, but said during a news conference Thursday that they are still working out which homes will get the help.

“They’re going to be there to support the front-line healthcare workers in any capacity they can. We need all hands on deck right now,” Ford said.

Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said because of staff shortages at some long-term care homes that in some cases existed since before the pandemic, the government decided to call in the military.

“There was too much risk that our loved ones would not get the support they needed, so that’s why we reached out to the Canadian Armed Forces, “ said Fullerton.

Shah said he hopes that the premier hears his plea for help and sends the soldiers to Seven Oaks.

“Any hands on deck right now would be the best thing for this home. After six weeks, it’s just been really difficult for all of us,” Shah said choking back tears.

“Doug, I think the numbers show everything. We need assistance in any way. We need people in here because it’s gut-wrenching every day.”

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