COVID-19 outbreak claims 15 lives at hard-hit Shelburne Residence Retirement & Nursing Home

May 8, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Top brass at Shelburne Residence Retirement and Nursing Home say staff at the facility are doing all they can to protect its residents and limit a deadly outbreak of the  COVID-19 virus. 

In an open letter penned to the community last week, Stacey Rooyakkers, Executive Director of Shelburne Residence, said the organization was continuing to address numerous challenges brought on by the coronavirus. The care home, located at 200 Robert Street, has had one of the most significant small-town outbreaks anywhere in the country. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, 55 residents and 23 staff members had tested positive for the virus, with 15 residents having died. Operated by Cambridge-based Southbridge Care Homes, the local facility houses approximately 60 residents. 

While the provincial government has started to take steps to reopen the economy over the next few weeks, new cases of COVID-19 continue to come in. In the past week, there have been 10,449 new cases nationwide, with more than 2,000 of those here in Ontario. In total, Canada has 31,010 active COVID-19 cases, with a further 31,036 closed cases – 4,043 of those being deaths. There has been 18,310 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. 

Within our local public health region, which encompasses Dufferin County, as well as Guelph and the County of Wellington, there have been 312 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 27 of which have been fatal. 

Dufferin has, overtaken its regional neighbours in terms of both total cases, with 137 confirmed as of Wednesday morning, and deaths at 18 of the region’s 27, while 49 individuals had made a full recovery. There is currently one individual from Dufferin in hospital, with a further 59 in self isolation. 

Dufferin Oaks, another senior care facility in Shelburne, has, seemingly, succeeded in limiting the spread of COVID-19 there. As of press time, four residents and six staff at the site have been infected with the virus, with no new cases recorded in the past week.

Charts in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph  Public Health unit’s  website show a slowing in the number of new cases, with only four in the latest 24-hour period.

A chart listing outbreaks in the region’s institutions shows Shelburne Residence and Dufferin Oaks as the only ones thus far, with four Orangeville facilities – the Avalon residence and nursing home, Bethsaida residence, and the Lord Dufferin Centre and Chartwell Montgomery Village seniors residences all apparently infection-free. 

Officials from Southbridge and staff from Shelburne Residence have stopped providing direct updates to media regarding the outbreak, and are instead forwarding any inquiries on to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. According to the open letter, which has been posted online at, all staff and residents have undergone rapid testing for COVID-19. 

The Shelburne facility confirmed its first case on April 7.  Since then, staff at the care home have enacted various infection control protocols. Residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been placed in isolation, with all rooms at the site subjected to a deep cleaning and sanitization process specifically designed to enhance infection control. Staff are required to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) while on shift, while only essential visitors are permitted to the home, and only after completing an extensive screening process. 

With the bulk of the facility’s regular staff base stricken by COVID-19, the care home has had to lean on various healthcare partners in the region in recent weeks. Staff from Headwaters Health Care Centre, and other health and social service organizations, have offered some much-needed guidance in recent weeks, and helped to cover the worker shortage at Shelburne Residence.

“The support from our community partners will ensure that we continue to have everything we need to keep our residents safe in their homes, and we would like to thank them for helping all of us through these challenging times,” Ms. Rooyakkers said. 

She added, “In addition to providing us with additional expertise in areas such as managing viral outbreaks, they will also provide us with additional staffing  support across various functions, including care, infection control, housekeeping and dietary departments.”

She added, “Be assured that our priorities going forward remain unchanged. We are working every day to protect the health and safety of our residents, staff and their loved ones and limit the spread of this virus.”

Ms. Rooyakkers went on record to thank the families of all of those living at Shelburne Residence for their patience and understanding during these trying times.

“We know that being away from your loved ones has not been easy, but your participation in our response plan will help us save lives,” she said.

The organization is continuing to send out daily updates to families over the phone, and are directing anyone with any questions to call 1-888-746-5511 for updates. The new toll-free line is staffed seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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