Months after John Dobbin's elderly parents contracted COVID-19 and nearly died, the couple is finally out of hospital and living together in a personal care home.
They aren't the only Manitoba seniors moving from hospitals into personal care homes during the pandemic.
Mike and Gail Dobbin, both 82, share a room at the downtown Beacon Hill Lodge. The couple, married for 57 years, moved in two weeks ago from the Victoria General Hospital.
"They spent 100 days in the COVID unit," their son, John, said Monday. "They didn't want them to get sick again and Beacon Hill was ready to take them in. They had to quarantine for two weeks after they got there and they have now been cleared. This keeps them together."
The bulk of new transfers to personal care homes was put on hold during the worst of the second wave of the pandemic.
But Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, said there is movement again as seniors fill vacant beds.
"It has just been in the last several weeks the personal care homes have started admissions again," Legeros said. "When 30 of the homes were in outbreak in Winnipeg, there was no move by the nine others to start. But now with 26 outbreaks in the province, down quite a bit from what it once was, they can."
"This keeps them together." ‐ John Dobbin on his elderly parents both moving into Beacon Hill Lodge care home
Legeros said 100 personal care home beds were open Friday, and Monday there were 40 new admissions.
Larry Roberts, a spokesman for Revera, a company that owns Beacon Hill and other personal care homes in Winnipeg (including Parkview Place and Maples Long Term Care Home), said the admission of new residents is easing pressure on the hospital system.
"Code red doesn't apply to admissions to a personal care home, just the visits of general visitors," Roberts said, noting Beacon Hill's outbreak status still hasn't been lifted.
"The residents (Beacon Hill is) accepting are people from hospitals who have already had COVID. There's no risk of them contracting COVID because they have already had it. They are trying to reduce pressure at the hospitals. They still have to do 14 days of isolation.
"It is only people coming in from the hospitals, not the community," Roberts added.
He said the province is still reviewing Parkview and Maples so they aren't allowed to accept new residents, yet. The operating licences of both came under review after inspections found various problems with staffing levels and renovations that needed to be done.
A spokesman for Shared Health said people can't be admitted to personal care homes with an outbreak unless they have been confirmed as COVID-19 positive or recovered from it during the past three months.
It didn't look positive for Mike and Gail Dobbin in October. The day after Thanksgiving, both were admitted into Victoria General Hospital for non-COVID-19 health reasons.
A few days later, there was an outbreak in their ward — the family medicine unit — and soon they were sick and testing positive for COVID-19. That began 100 days in hospital COVID wards where both fought the virus while being transferred to different hospitals. John Dobbin's dad was in a total of four hospitals, while his mom was in three.
"My dad was in rough shape and my mom wasn't much better, but she recovered first," John said.
He said getting his parents into Beacon Hill isn't like it would have been before the pandemic.
"I had to be in goggles, mask, face shield, gloves and gown while filling out 60 pages of documents. But they are there now," he said. "And I'm so happy they can be together. I don't think my mother would survive if she wasn't with him."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.