Entering potential self-isolation and waiting with bated breath, John Dobbin and his family are stuck — unsure about the scope of impact the COVID-19 outbreak at Victoria General Hospital will have on their lives.
It’s already been dire: Dobbin’s mother, Gail, tested positive for the novel coronavirus Friday; little news has come forward about his father, Mike.
The day after Thanksgiving, both of Dobbin’s 82-year-old parents were admitted to Victoria’s urgent care facility for non-pandemic health reasons.
They were moved, just days later, to the Winnipeg hospital’s family medicine unit on the fifth floor — Gail on the south side of the ward, Mike on the north. A COVID-19 outbreak affecting both staff and patients on the ward was announced Thursday.
"They’re probably scared out of their minds — my family is," Dobbin said in an interview early Friday afternoon.
He expected his mother will soon be transferred to Grace Hospital, where he’s been told there’s more capacity for COVID-positive patients. From his father’s area of the hospital, there’s been nothing but a "cone of silence," Dobbin said.
Later in the day, the 55-year-old was to make his way to the testing centre on Pembina Highway for his own COVID-19 test appointment. He cancelled work and plans for the coming days in advance, preparing for the possibility of a 14-day quarantine should he, too, test positive.
Dobbin said he had a flu in January that presented with COVID-similar symptoms, making him worried about how a similar bout of illness might affect his parents.
"It’s kind of depressing. I know if my parents are as sick as I was in January, I don’t think they could survive it," Dobbin said. "I’m desperately concerned about them."
Mike and Gail — married 57 years — both struggle with memory issues. During previous hospital visits, both have been restrained and isolated after histories of wandering from their rooms.
Dobbin said he last visited his mother in hospital — with a face mask on and keeping distance from others — Wednesday afternoon, the day before the outbreak was declared.
Now, he isn’t sure when next he’ll be able to see either parent.
"This is more scary now because, for gosh sakes, my parents are trapped up on the fifth floor of the hospital. I can’t see them or even talk to them really right now," Dobbin said. "I’m hoping that my mom is strong and able to cope with this."
At the moment, the south Winnipeg hospital has suspended new patient admissions to the fifth floor and restricted visits to the unit.
On Friday, officials confirmed the hospital was investigating 10 positive COVID-19 cases linked to the family medicine units on both the north and south sides of the fifth floor.
COVID-19 positive patients were being moved to acute care hospitals for further treatment, the hospital announced.
The Manitoba Nurses Union confirmed Friday one nurse on the fifth floor of the hospital had tested positive for the virus.
For now, Dobbin isn’t sure when his mother will be moved, whether or not his father has tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, or whether he himself contracted COVID-19 during his latest hospital visit.
"If I get it, I’ll hopefully just be able to isolate and get healthy, and see what I need to do to get supported at home," he said. "But I’m hoping that a day or two from now, I’ll just be able to concentrate on making sure that I can support them as best I can from the outside looking in."
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.