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Colleagues saddened and frustrated at death of health care worker

Last Updated Jan 13, 2021 at 8:02 am MST

SHERWOOD PARK (660 NEWS) — The health care community took another hit this week, as an aide became one of the latest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rose Vandelannoite worked at the Summerwood Village retirement home in Sherwood Park, and she contracted the virus in early December. She fought against it for weeks but eventually succumbed to it on Jan. 10.

Her death has left colleagues and friends saddened, but also frustrated about a lack of supports from the provincial government.

Nanou Suamy is also an aide at Summerwood Village and was friends with Vandelannoite, she was at her bedside when she died in hospital.

“My heart is so broken now. I didn’t lose only a co-worker, I lost a sister, a friend,” she said.

Suamy said Vandelannoite was a “special person” who was devoted to her work, and the tragic irony of the situation is that she took the virus extremely seriously.

“Always she used to say if I can say it loud today, this pandemic is real,” Suamy said. “Sometimes she would say it and we would laugh, she’s like even though you don’t care about yourself, care about others and protect yourselves. This disease is really real.”

The union that represented Vandelannoite is also shocked at the death, and they are calling for action from the province to better support their members.

“It was the day that I had been dreading since the pandemic was declared last March,” said Ann Waller, President of LiUNA Local 3000. “I was sad, but I was also angry. Because Rose should not have died. Her life was cut short because she went to work.”

Waller knew Vandelannoite personally ever since the aide joined the union in 2009, and Waller considered her a friend. She said the anger comes up because members do not get offered full paid sick leave through the province.

“Health care workers are going to continue to die if the decision-makers in Alberta — and I’m squarely going to put this on (Premier) Jason Kenney and (Health Minister) Tyler Shandro — do not put laws in place that allow health care workers that need to isolate to stay home and be paid,” Waller said.

Suamy said other workers at the facility share feelings of anger in the wake of the tragedy.

“People are really frustrated,” she said. “We don’t feel much support from the government. We have to come to work because if we don’t, there is no more help coming to help those seniors that we are taking care of for now. And those seniors are more fragile than we are, we have to be there for them.”

It’s not exactly known yet how Vandelannoite contracted the virus, although Suamy said there was no indication she spread it further throughout the facility before eventually leaving and going to the hospital.

She remembers the day Vandelannoite called her to say she would not be coming into work due to symptoms of the virus, and Suamy was at her bedside when she died.

“Seeing my colleague laying in that bed in that condition pushed me even more again to stand, to try to make people understand that it’s serious.”

The 63-year-old did have asthma, but Suamy said it did not pose a problem for her through her work.

A fundraiser has also been set up to help her family pay for funeral expenses. Vandelannoite leaves behind two children, and their father passed away from cancer only a few years ago.

Vandelannoite is the fourth health care worker in Alberta to die from COVID-19 so far during the pandemic. The death of a doctor from the Calgary area was announced last week, and Joe Corral — health care aide from Calgary — died late in 2020. A worker from the Edmonton area also passed away from the virus near the end of last year, though her name has not been released.