Class action proposed at N.S. long-term care home where 53 residents died from COVID-19
Published Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:05PM ADT Last Updated Wednesday, June 3, 2020 3:59PM ADT
Northwood's Halifax campus is seen on Gottingen Street on April 6, 2020. (Carl Pomeroy/CTV Atlantic)
HALIFAX -- A Halifax law firm is proposing a class action lawsuit against a Nova Scotia long-term care facility where 53 people have died from COVID-19, claiming normal standards of care weren't met to protect against infection from the virus.
The Wagners firm issued a statement of claim on Tuesday, which has not been proven in court, alleging the non-profit complex in Halifax breached its obligations to residents through "inaction and inadequate response."
The court document filed June 1 claims the facility's practices caused the untimely deaths of residents and harms, losses and damages to their surviving family members.
It further alleges that the home's administration knew how the rapid spread of infection could be mitigated by maintaining and enforcing physical distancing since early March, if not sooner, yet moved too slowly.
The management of the facility said in an email that Northwood remains committed to the care and safety of residents and employees "as we continue to manage active cases of COVID-19" at the Halifax residence.
"We appreciate the support and understanding we have been receiving from our health-care colleagues, residents, and the community. We have received notification of legal action, and we will carefully review and vigorously respond."
The facility says it will not be providing further comment because the matter is before the courts.
The law firm alleges that after the global pandemic was declared, residents continued to share rooms and bathrooms with one or even two others, common areas were not restricted, and visitors and staff were not closely regulated.
Representative plaintiff Erica Surette said in a news release that she lost her 66-year-old mother, Patricia West, on April 22, after West had been moved from a single to a shared room in the midst of the pandemic.
According to the statement of claim, West had early onset dementia and moved to a shared room in Northwood in 2017.
She received her own room on Nov. 6 last year, but according to the statement of claim, was moved to a shared room in the Centre building of the complex in late March.
"Surette wrote to Northwood Halifax to raise serious concerns about the timing of such a move, amidst a pandemic to which her mother was acutely vulnerable," the statement of claim reads.
In early April, the claim states, "Surette was informed by her mother ... that her roommate had been moved out of the shared room. Northwood Halifax provided no explanation.
"On or about April 10, 2020, Surette spoke with her mother via telephone, at which time Ms. West advised that she felt very sick and was no longer eating or sleeping."
Surette said she was initially informed by Northwood that her mother had tested negative for COVID-19, and a second test was arranged.
On April 13, West was moved to a floor for patients with the virus, according to the statement of claim. Surette said she spoke to her mother for the last time the next day.
Three days later, West was sent to the hospital and placed on a ventilator. On April 22 she died in hospital from complications due to COVID-19.
The statement of claim says contact tracing at the facility began on April 5, after a Northwood Halifax staff member responsible for the care of residents tested positive for COVID-19.
"While masks were provided to Northwood Halifax employees on or about the following day, no steps were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between residents and staff members who had already been exposed to the disease," the law firm alleges.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020.