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LEVY: Bill 218 is ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ for LTCs, say advocates

Posted: November 13, 2020

(November 12, 2020)

By: Sue-Ann Levy, Vancouver Sun

“Thank you” signs are on display outside the Seven Oaks Long-Term Care Home in Toronto on Thursday June 25, 2020. PHOTO BY THE CANADIAN PRESS /Toronto Sun

If Bill 218 passes next week, residents and their loved ones will see more of the “same” negligence and substandard care in Ontario long-term care homes,  advocates for the elderly predict.

“This is their get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Graham Webb, executive director of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly told a press conference Wednesday.

Lawyer Gary Will, of Will Davidson, who is representing 2,000 clients in nine homes in class-action lawsuits, insisted the situation is likely to “get worse” if there is no accountability for negligent conduct.

“There will be more infections, more deaths and less care for residents,” he said.

The legislation — tabled Oct. 20, and retroactive to March 17 — significantly raises the burden of proof for families which want to sue for alleged negligence during the pandemic.

If the bill passes next week,  according to advocates, families will now need to prove “gross negligence” instead of ordinary negligence — something not even defined by the court when it pertains to long-term care.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said requests to take LTC and retirement homes out of the legislation were refused.“

At every step, we’ve watched injustice upon injustice heaped up

Mehra added the number of cases in LTC homes have “exploded” in the past week and even now appropriate personal protective equipment is not available, N95 masks are deemed not necessary, testing is not being conducted quickly and “very little care” is being provided.

“This is just so wrong,” she said. “I have never in my 20 years seen a situation like this where so many people are dying alone in squalid conditions, dehydrated and without proper care.”

She said not allowing families to call negligent and grossly incompetent homes to account violates “every set of ethics” we hold as a society.

Greg McVeigh lost both parents within nine days at a Scarborough LTC home from COVID-19.

He said the hurt of their loss is “immeasurable,” coupled with this legislation, which prevents his family from finding some form of justice and “closure.”

Nicko Vavassis, spokesperson for the attorney general, denied the bill would prevent access to justice for aggrieved families.

“Individuals would still be able to file claims and seek redress against long-term care homes who deliberately ignore public health guidance,” he said in an email.

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