A family says New Brunswick Public Health has changed its mind after ruling a woman’s death wasn’t due to COVID-19.
Peter Lewis’ mother Joan Davis died January 21.
She had been living in the Lily Court unit inside Tucker Hall at Shannex’s Parkland Saint John facility, where a COVID-19 outbreak continues to rage.
Davis had dementia and stomach cancer, but Lewis says she was managing fine until she herself caught the virus.
“She could carry on a conversation, she could eat and drink,” he says.
“She went from basically that status to being basically a vegetable.”
Lewis says he went to see his mother for the last time last week, but due to pandemic protocols couldn’t actually go inside.
“They put her in a window visit with me and when she looked at me she looked right through me,” he says.
“It was awful.”
He got the call in the early hours that Thursday morning.
“It’s funny,” he says. “I was in bed and I woke up and it was about 20 to 2.
“I was really unsettled… and at 2:00 the phone rang and she had passed.”
He said front-line staff at the facility were with her and that they agreed with him that COVID-19 brought on her death.
However, Shannex called him back later that day — he says half an hour before the province’s scheduled COVID-19 briefing.
“They said, basically, your mother is not gonna be in the numbers that they’re talking about in the COVID-19 deaths,” recalls Lewis.
He later learned his mother’s death report indicated cancer was the cause of death.
And he was frustrated by that.
“She had COVID-19, she was in the Lily Court COVID unit and she didn’t die from COVID?”
Lewis posted a lengthy Facebook update on Sunday expressing his frustrations over the situation, which was shared more than 200 times by Monday morning.
Commenters wondered if Public Health was reaching to keep New Brunswick’s COVID-19 death count low, just to save face.
That day, at the COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said that wasn’t the case.
“It’s a really difficult time for families, and I appreciate that, but there’s absolutely no reason for public health to not be upfront as much as possible and have been with this. So there is there’s absolutely no cover-up.”
Also on Monday, the regional medical officer of health who oversees the Saint John area contacted Lewis.
She told him they’d review his mother’s death.
“I said okay but don’t just interview management,” Lewis says.
“Go down and talk to the nurses who held my mom’s hand as she died and then tell me she didn’t have COVID-19.”
Later that afternoon, they called him again.
“She said ‘we are going to reverse that decision, and we are going to have that death that says cancer changed to COVID-19.”
He says he’s happy his advocating has got this result but in the end, his mother was more than just a number.
“I want my mom to be remembered as a great caregiver,” Lewis says.
“She enjoyed life and she was fun to be around.”
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