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Mourning families fear legal rights are ‘being extinguished’

Posted: October 24, 2020

(October 23, 2020)

By: Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun (Print Edition)

The executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition worries the truth will never get out about poor-performing long-term care homes after the province introduced a new COVID-19 liability law this week. Natalie Mehra told the Toronto Sun her phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from families who fear their “rights are being extinguished” by the proposed legislation.

“The truth has to be told,” she said. The legislation – tabled Tuesday and retroactive to March 17 – raises the standard for those harmed from COVID-19 to prove “gross negligence” instead of ordinary negligence. It also changes the definition of “good faith effort” to comprise an “honest effort whether reasonable or not.” Mehra said the legislation, if passed, will make it “significantly harder” to sue an LTC home and “significantly easier” for a home to defend itself.

Dozens of class-action suits have been launched in the aftermath of the first wave of COVID-19, including a $500-million suit against 96 Ontario longterm care homes to send a clear message the COVID-19 deaths that occurred in them were “preventable” and that this tragedy should never happen again, according to the claim. More than 70% of Ontario’s COVID-19 deaths took place in LTC homes and it got so bad at some that the military was called in.

Patricia Spindel, one of the founders of Seniors for Social Action Ontario, said she was shocked at the “bald-faced nerve” of members of the Ontario Long Term Care Association (representing 630 homes) during their recent testimony to the provincial LTC commission. She said their testimony provided proof the OLTCA lobby advocated for ministry inspectors to stop inspecting homes during the pandemic and instead be redeployed to “support” publicly funded homes with their needs – and that happened.

“This represents a complete abdication of government responsibility to provide oversight and inspection during a crisis … and no requirement of compliance with the legislation or enforcement action,” she said. Spindel suggested the implication made in the testimony is that longterm care homes wish not at all.” “to be held accountable

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