COVID Slams Hamilton’s Shalom Village

Dec. 18, 2020

By STEVE ARNOLD

Hamilton’s Jewish retirement home kept COVID infections at bay for nine months, but now, Shalom Village is being hammered by the deadly infection.

By Wednesday of this week, Shalom Village’s interim CEO, Larry Levin, reported that four people died from the virus and another 81 were infected throughout the campus.

Dr Larry Levin
Dr Larry Levin

“I appreciate that this is a time of tremendous stress, fear and sadness,” Levin said in a note to residents. “Indeed all of us at Shalom Village  (myself included) are devastated to know that so many of the Shalom Village family are impacted by the COVID virus, and saddened to have lost four of our residents to this pervasive, and deadly virus.”

Levin said that as of Dec. 16, 40 staff had tested positive for the virus, and with those people required to stay home, staffing at the facility was maintained with the help of workers hired through a private contractor recommended by St. Joseph’s Healthcare.

“This has had a dramatic effect on our ability to staff the home,” he said. “We are in close contact with public health every day and we are making progress on this.

The staffing problem was so severe that the Hamilton Jewish Federation issued a call for volunteers to help with food delivery to residents confined to their rooms. Levin said on Wednesday, however, that those volunteers will not be used until the outbreak has been defeated. Any shortage of staff will be made up with workers from a private contractor suggested by St. Joseph’s Healthcare.

“This should meet our need until the outbreak has been cleared,” Levin said in an email exchange. “Any community volunteers will not be deployed until the outbreak has been declared over.”

“Right now we are managing with our existing model,” he added.

Levin reported six of the infected residents are in the facility’s apartment complex while 35 are in its long-term care facility.

Shalom Village has been ordered by the public health department to allow St. Joseph’s Healthcare to monitor, investigate and respond to the outbreak.

“St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton will be working in partnership with Shalom Village to monitor, investigate and respond to the infection prevention and control matters needed to prevent further spread of COVID. We welcome this partnership, which will assist us with additional education and training support, and expertise,” Levin said in his letter to the community. “Here in Hamilton, St. Joe’s has been working with a number of long-term care homes, retirement homes and congregate settings to support them through the COVID pandemic .

“The entire team is working together to minimize any additional spread of the virus, as well as its impact on those already infected,” he added. “Please be assured that Shalom Village is working closely with Public Health and with St. Joseph’s Healthcare to ensure that everything that can be done to deal with this outbreak is being done and we pray that the outbreak will be speedily resolved.”

Shalom Village is the sixth long term care home in Hamilton to have infection control orders issued by the health department. Five of those homes were still in outbreak Wednesday, accounting for 444 of the city’s 779 cases.

From March until this week Shalom Village managed to stay COVID-free through a combination of regular testing of staff and residents in its 127-bed long-term care unit with 81 apartments and a ban on visitors.

On Thursday, Hamilton’s congregational rabbis called for a community-wide prayer service for the residents and staff of Shalom Village.

The online event is set for Saturday at 7 pm on Zoom.

“As the rabbis of Hamilton’s Jewish community we watch with sadness and trepidation as the numbers of those infected with COVID-19, as well as the numbers of those dying from it, continue to rise. We fear for all residents of our beloved city, Hamilton. And we are especially distressed by the outbreaks at Shalom Village, which, with constant dedication and tirelessness, cares for the beloved, treasured elderly members of our community. We are concerned for the vulnerable residents, and we are equally concerned for those who care for them” Rabbis Jordan Cohen, Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli, Daniel Green and Aaron Selevan wrote.

The rabbis added: “Our prayers are only as good as the actions which accompany them. We would like to use this opportunity to remind everyone of the religious obligation to meticulously follow all current health regulations and recommendations: Stay home whenever possible, do not gather in groups, stay two metres away from others, wash your hands frequently, and wear masks.”

Hamilton’s Sandi Seigel is New President of Na’amat Canada

Oct. 26, 2020

By STEVE ARNOLD

When Sandi Seigel walked into her first Na’amat meeting 20 years ago, she was looking for a way to make friends in a new city.

Sandi Seigel

The Toronto native had just moved to Hamilton with her new husband and she was looking for a Jewish women’s organization in which to get involved. Now, the Hamilton pediatrician and McMaster University medical school professor has been elected National President of the organization.

Na’amat – the name is an acronym of the Hebrew words meaning Movement of Working Women and Volunteers – is one of the largest agencies providing social services in Israel.

Like many service groups, Seigel said, Na’amat is facing a tough challenge in convincing women to spend some of their scarce free time on its projects. But the need is so great, she’s determined to see the group survive and thrive.

“It has been challenging for a long time to get people involved,” Seigel said in an interview with the CJR. “That has been a challenge for all of us, and even more so during the COVID crisis. The needs we’re trying to meet, from a social standpoint, are just huge.”

Na'amat Canada

Founded almost 100 years ago, according to the history recorded on the group’s national website, Na’amat was known as Pioneer Women in its early days and was dedicated to the idea that women could work with men in equality and help other women improve their families and society.

In the early years, Na’amat women – including a young, idealistic American who took the name Golda Meir – worked in the fields, factories and communal kitchens of Israel, even before it was a state. Today it is the largest women’s movement in Israel, filling a gaping social need government simply can’t meet.

It is the largest provider of daycare centres in the country, with over 200 facilities; operates women’s shelters; provides scholarships for women in gender studies and the sciences; and campaigns against domestic violence.

“We’re filling a gap with services that just wouldn’t exist if Na’amat wasn’t there,” Seigel said. “The scholarships we provide go to women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to continue their education.”

In addition to its work in Israel Na’amat chapters across Canada are active in such efforts as providing school supplies for the children of women in shelters.

Na’amat is also active in the field of domestic violence – a problem Seigel said has become especially troubling during COVID-related lockdowns.

Before moving onto Na’amat’s national stage, Seigel was co-president of the Hamilton chapter. Nationally she served two terms as chair of the National Education Committee, and has been national vice-president and chair of the Na’amat Canada National Development Committee.

She has also participated in a solidarity mission to Israel, has headed the Israel leadership seminar, and has represented Na’amat Canada in Israel at the Na’amat International and World Zionist Organization meetings.

Professionally, Seigel is a general pediatrician practicing at St. Joseph’s Healthcare and McMaster Children’s Hospital.  She has cared for HIV-positive patients and children and infants of HIV-positive mothers.

She has also been involved in assessing children for possible abuse and caring for premature infants.

She served as deputy chief of pediatrics at St. Joseph’s Healthcare for 13 years and was the 2020 recipient of the Sister Joan O’Sullivan award.

Her husband, Joel Yellin, is a Hamilton native. They have three sons, Samuel, Jonathan and Robert.