'We never expected this': Sask. health care worker, 34, dies after testing positive for COVID-19
SASKATOON -- A 34-year-old North Battleford health care worker died on Monday from cardiac arrest after testing positive from COVID-19.
“It was really shocking news to everyone, very hard to accept because he was healthy and we never expected this,” a close friend of Tom Thomas, Antony Mathew, told CTV News.
Thomas was a nurse in Kerala, India and brought his passion of caring for people to Canada when he moved in 2016. He leaves behind his wife and 18-month-old daughter.
Thomas tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 6 and was isolating in his apartment with his wife and child, Mathew said.
Mathew says he had chest pains on Monday and drove himself to the Northbattleford Hospital in the evening and later died.
“We do not know if it’s connected with COVID or something else.”
In an email to CTV News, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said they are “investigating the death of one health care worker. To date, we have not had any confirmed COVID-19 deaths among health care workers.”
Thomas worked as a continuing care assistant at the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford.
During a COVID-19 press conference, Premier Scott Moe spoke on Thomas’ death calling him a “young hero,” offering his condolences to the family.
“Today, we’re reminded that unfortunately this virus, this COVID-19 virus, can impact anyone in the most negative way imaginable.”
Mathew describes Thomas as an active member of the community who was a gifted singer and always willing to help out anyone.
The initial plan was to send Thomas’ body back to India but with pandemic, Mathew says it’s hard to move a body. Thomas will now be cremated on Sunday and his remains will be sent back to India.
“It is very hard. His wife is slowly accepting that reality but she is still in shock,” Mathew said.
A GoFundMe page was started by St. Mother Teresa Syro Malabar Church and the Battleford Malayalee Association to raise money to support his wife and daughter who have no other family in Canada, the page says.
The GoFundMe page has been closed for further donations and raised a total of $92,570.
“We thank everybody for their generosity and it’ll be a good help for them.”
Andrew McLetchie, Vice-President Integrated Northern Health, and Dr. Stephanie Young, Physician Executive Integrated Northern Health also released a joint statement on the GoFundMe page:
"The Saskatchewan Health Authority offers its condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of a staff member who died Monday in North Battleford.
"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.
"Out of respect for their family and for patient confidentiality, we are not able to provide any additional details at this time."