An employee of a Westman-based private health-care business recently tested positive for COVID-19, according to internal messages obtained by The Brandon Sun.
However, the business owner, CEO Gail Freeman-Campbell, denies that one of her employees tested positive for the virus.
Daughter on Call is a health-care business that sends home-care workers into the community in Brandon and Westman to care for seniors.
It also operates several personal care homes in the region.
The Sun was originally contacted on May 14 by a former Daughter on Call employee, saying the organization had a COVID-19 case among its employees and another worker had been exposed. The caller said she was a friend of the COVID-19 patient.
That evening, the Sun was contacted by two additional people, a now-former employee of Daughter on Call and a former health-care aide at the organization whose employment was terminated last week, also saying an employee had tested positive.
Those who spoke to the Sun and forwarded us information did so anonymously for fear of backlash.
"In general, she is not letting the public know, or not even the staff," the now-former employee said of Freeman-Campbell. This now-former employee said she officially resigned Tuesday due to the pandemic.
When reached by the Sun on the afternoon of May 15, Freeman-Campbell denied anyone at the company had tested positive for COVID-19.
"It’s rumour; I heard it too," she said. "All my staff are healthy, all my people we look after are healthy, I’m healthy."
That evening, following our conversation with Freeman-Campbell, the Sun was forwarded a series of internal messages the employee who would later resign had received. The messages, signed "Gail," said a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
The following is the first message, which was received at 7:32 p.m.:
"On May 10th, I was informed that one of our community staff members tested positive for covid-19. She contracted it from her partner, and he got it from his workplace. I immediately called the 2 families of the clients that she worked with and advised them to call health links.
"I then called every employee who had contact with this staff member and told them to call health links."
A second message followed at 7:36 p.m.:
"All of the above people were also contacted by Public Health who directed several of them to be tested. All of those who were tested have came back NEGATIVE.
"I did my best to keep this employee’s confidentiality as she does not need to have guilt directed at her. We also had one elder admitted to the hospital and because he had a temperature and trouble breathing he was tested for covid.
"We KNOW he did not have contact with the employees or anyone else with symptoms."
A third message came at 7:40 p.m., stating health inspectors are making "surprise visits to check up on our cleaning and isolation procedures.
"We legally have to allow them in to do the job. If they show up on your shift, please text the work phone and inform us. We are essential workers. Many of us would like not to work until this is over but the reality is that our elders need us. Proud of you all! Gail."
The Sun called Freeman-Campbell again on the evening of May 15, after receiving these messages. She denied sending the text messages.
"I can’t confirm that. I don’t know what message you received or where you received it from," she said. "I don’t text my staff."
A former staff member said the phone number associated with the messages comes from AxisCare, a service Daughter on Call uses to communicate with employees to let them know their work schedule or important information.
They said only Freeman-Campbell and office staff have access to the system, which sends messages to employees’ phones.
Calls to the number could not be completed.
A Brandon Sun reporter viewed the message chains in person during the weekend to confirm them and to take a video. Above the May 15 messages in the chain, a message with the employee’s work schedule accessible on AxisCare was visible in the chain of messages.
The former employee whose employment was terminated said that on May 7, still employed by Daughter on Call, she went to relieve the person who eventually tested positive for the virus, at a private residence. At the time, she said the person looked very ill.
"I’ve never seen someone look like that, thank God she had a mask on. … This happened Thursday (May 7), the lady she was taking care of, we get so physically close with them taking care of them, if the client gets this, she’s dead."
She said she was told by Freeman-Campbell on May 10 that she could have been exposed and should self-isolate, adding she went into self-isolation that day.
She then had an upset stomach so was tested on May 14, she said, which later came back negative.
But the previous day, before she said she was tested, she received a text message from a phone number the Sun verified is associated with Daughter on Call, asking her to come back to work. She refused, saying she didn’t feel comfortable yet. She then received a text message saying she was "terminated."
Reached again on Tuesday, she said she had not heard anything further from the company or received a new work schedule.
Health-care aides now have to answer a series of COVID-19-related questions before starting work, according to an earlier text message sent through AxisCare and signed "Gail & Marlene," received at 10 a.m. on May 15 by the anonymous employee who resigned on Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Sun was sent a screenshot from the phone number associated with AxisCare — the same number used to send the message confirming a COVID-19 case at Daughter on Call — saying that three other employees were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and being tested. When reached Tuesday afternoon, Freeman-Campbell said that message was only sent to one person — the employee who resigned that day.
"I purposely sent that out to one employee, and now I know who that employee is. No, we don’t have three people, we have nobody infected, all our staff are healthy, all our people are healthy but I have a problem employee, apparently."
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from Kyle Darbyson