Thursday, February 25, 2021

North Battleford health care worker dies after battle with COVID-19

North Battleford health care worker dies after battle with COVID-19

Tom Thomas is remembered as an active member of his church, a gifted choral singer and a caring father and husband.

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Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised to support the family of a North Battleford health care worker who reportedly died of COVID-19 earlier this week.

Tom Thomas, remembered as an active member of his church and a caring father and husband, died on Monday at the age of 34 after a battle with COVID-19.

He was 34.

“It is a very great loss,” said Father Plogen Antony, the priest of Thoma’s congregation. “I didn’t expect that. He was a healthy person, but I don’t know how it happened.”

St. Mother Teresa Syro Malabar church in North Battleford, an informal congregation, has helped establish a GoFundMe campaign in Thomas’s memory, which Antony said will go toward supporting his widow and their 18-month-old child.

Antony said the organizers also want to help return Thomas’s remains to his home province of Kerala in India, which is expensive.

Antony said he had recently arrived in Canada when he first met Thomas in 2017.

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He remembers him as a dedicated member of the congregation and a hardworking employee at Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford. He stood out for his involvement in his parish and his singing voice, which left a strong impression.

“He was a very good singer in our parish choir,” Antony said. “He was helping us for our liturgy in our choir. He was a very good man.”

Thomas is not the first health care worker in the province to be exposed to COVID-19. As of Wednesday the government reported that 1,751 health care workers had tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic, though not all were exposed to it in a work setting.

Antony said Thomas was exposed through his work. A COVID-19 outbreak was declared in a wing of Saskatchewan Hospital on Feb. 4. 

The Saskatchewan Health Authority confirmed that a North Battleford employee died Monday and expressed condolences, but said it could not confirm the person’s identity or cause of death for privacy reasons and out of respect for the family.

“The SHA is reaching out to our staff member’s family to offer support. We are also ensuring co-workers and other staff members are aware of mental health supports available through the Saskatchewan Health Authority and our Employee Family Assistance Program,” vice-president of integrated northern health Andrew McLetchie and physician executive Dr. Stephanie Young wrote in a prepared statement.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the fundraising campaign had raised nearly $90,000 — well over its $75,000 goal. More than 1,300 people had contributed.

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Correction: Thomas had previously worked in nursing but was working as a continuing care aid at the time of his death.The StarPhoenix regrets the error.

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