Jesuit Fathers (from left) Michael Hawkins, 83, Peter Larisey, 91, Norman Dodge, 92, and Francis Xavier Johnson, 93, as well as George O’Neill, 77, died between April 29 and May 3 at René Goupil House, a Jesuit infirmary neighbouring the Manresa retreat centre.

Jesuit facility closes after outbreak claims five lives

By 
  • May 15, 2020

Following five COVID-19 deaths in one horrific week, the Jesuit long-term care facility in Pickering, Ont., is closing temporarily.

The majority of the remaining Jesuits are being transferred to two facilities with specialized COVID-19 care wings.

With advice from Unity Health Toronto, which manages St. Michael’s Hospital, Providence Healthcare and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto, as well as Durham public health, the Jesuits will commission a “terminal clean” of Rene Goupil House, which had been home to 22 elderly and infirm Jesuits before a wave of COVID-19 infected most of the residents. Five residents, including four Jesuit priests, died between April 29 and May 3 after contracting the virus.

A “terminal clean” involves disinfecting every item and surface in the home.

Two of the remaining Jesuits who have tested negative for the virus will remain nearby, although in isolation, in the La Storta Jesuit community. Jesuits living at La Storta are primarily engaged running the Manresa retreat house on the same property near where Rene Goupil House is located.

Long-term care homes have been hard hit across Ontario, with 180 of the facilities reporting COVID-19 outbreaks. There are 2,703 active cases among long-term care home residents and 1,677 cases among long-term care staff. As of May 11, 1,239 long-term care home residents have died.

The decision to relocate the men outside of their community was not easy, provincial superior Fr. Erik Oland said in a letter to donors. “This shift, although temporary, will be difficult for some of them. I ask for your prayers for them,” Oland wrote in the May 11 letter.

In coming months changes will be made to the building itself to make long-term infection prevention and management easier. Among those changes will be removal of broadloom carpet throughout the facility.

In recent weeks Jesuits and others have volunteered to help the staff at the infirmary, some of them moving from Montreal to help the Rene Goupil community. Oland thanked them and the professional staff at the home for “their leadership and selfless generosity in caring for our men.”

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