Community prayer service for Shalom Village

Dec. 20, 2020
Steve Arnold

COVID-19 has now claimed nine lives at Shalom Village and has infected 116 residents and staff.

Interim CEO Larry Levin told a town hall meeting Monday afternoon that after nine months of keeping the virus at bay, its attack on the community home has been devastating.

“We have never had to deal with such a heart-rending situation at Shalom Village,” he told more than 120 people attending the meeting. “We are all heart broken by this tragedy.”

Levin said it’s not clear yet how the COVID virus got past Shalom Village’s protections of regular testing and visitor restrictions.

Despite those moats, he said, residents still had to leave the home for medical appointments where they were potentially exposed to the pestilence and essential care workers were still coming in to help residents. Most critically, he added, the sheer number of infections in Hamilton is rising sharply.

“The difference between now and March is that the COVID numbers in our community are rising exponentially,” he said. “We’ve been doing all we know how to do at the highest level and yet it still came in.

“Unfortunately it is all around us and it was just not possible to keep it from coming in,” he added.

The outbreak at Shalom Village has claimed 59 staff, forcing the home to rely on a private contractor recommended by St. Joseph’s Healthcare.

Under orders from the public health department St. Joseph’s is working with Shalom Village on cleaning and other efforts to defeat the virus.

“We are getting through this one day at a time,” Levin said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

As of Monday, Levin said, the Shalom Village Original long term care building had 15 cases on the first floor and 28 on the second. That number includes seven resolved cases. The Shalom Village Too building had three positive cases on the first floor and two on the se4cond floor. Nine positive cases have been found in the apartment complex.

The home has been classed as an Outbreak level event, which means it is closed to all visitors, including those helping residents. That situation, he said, will change as soon as possible.

“The minute we can let helpers back in we will absolutely do that,” he said.

Levin added residents face a “very, very low” risk of infection if they stay in their units.

“Every time you go out you run the risk of touching something that will transmit the infection to you,” he said. “We are doing everything humanly possible to keep COVID out.”

Monday’s meeting followed an online community prayer service Saturday night organized by the city’s four pulpit rabbis.
“We are all sitting at home and reading the news of these outbreaks and we don’t know what to do about it,” said Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli, of Beth Jacob Synagogue. “It’s scary because the world has been afflicted by this new thing and we don’t know what to do.”

They were joined by Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who called on the entire community to follow public health mandates to stay home as much as possible and wear masks when outside and avoid large gatherings.
That, he admitted, will be especially hard at Christmas.

“I have children and grandchildren I’m aching to see, but we cannot and should not. It would not be the right thing to do,” he said. “We must, and we will, overcome this dreadful virus and we will come out of this with a community that is intact and ready to move forward.

“This will go on longer than we anticipated,” he added. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a very long tunnel.”

While the community looks to a future, Levin said Shalom Village management is struggling with meeting the sharply increased costs of running the home in the face of the outbreak.

A special fundraising appeal has been launched through the Shalom Village website. That follows a weekend appeal through the Hamilton Jewish Federation website. In that effort, gifts were 50 per cent matched by the Jewish Federations of North America. No specific target for the appeal has been set because the costs of the fight are still being tallied.

The not-for-profit home combines a 127-bed long-term care unit with 81 apartments. While the provincial government pays daily amounts for long term care residents, apartment rents are a major source of income for the home. That stream has been interrupted because vacant units cannot be shown to prospective tenants.

Levin, a Hamilton dentist with a long history of community service (his wife Jacki is current president of the Hamilton Jewish Federation), took over as acting CEO of the home in March after the previous leader left. The Covid-19 pandemic hit just as the Shalom Village board was gearing up to search for a new CEO.

New CEO Ken Callaghan is on site now to help deal with the outbreak, but officially takes over Jan. 4. His career has included serving as operational manager of large pharmacies in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton, as CEO of family and women’s health teams in Cambridge and Toronto. Larry Levin will be returning to his role on the Board of Directors.

Levin said even after that date he will be on hand to help with transition.

“I will be going nowhere until everything is running as smoothly as we want it,” he said.

In other major staff changes, the director and assistant director of care have both resigned.