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Will LTC homes never be held to account for COVID deaths?

Posted: October 23, 2020

(October 22, 2020)

By: Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun

COVID-19-Diane Colangelo visits her 86-year-old mother Patricia through a window at the Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Patricia tested postivive for coronavirus days later and died on May 7, 2020. PHOTO BY VERONICA HENRI /TORONTO SUN FILES

The executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition worries the truth will never get out about the poor-performing long-term care homes after the Ford government 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” with 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 if passed, the legislation will make it “significantly harder” to sue a 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 class action lawsuit against 96 Ontario long-term care homes to send a clear message the COVID deaths that occurred in them were “preventable” and that this tragedy should not happen again, according to the claim.

More than 70% of Ontario’s COVID deaths took place in LTC homes and it got so bad at some of them that the Canadian military had to be called in from April to June.

Patricia Spindel, one of the founders of Seniors for Social Action Ontario, said was she was shocked at the “bald-faced nerve” of members of the Ontario Term Care Association (representing 630 homes) during their recent testimony to the provincial LTC Commission.

She claims their testimony provided proof the OLTCA lobby advocated for ministry inspectors to stop inspecting homes during the pandemic and instead be redeployed to “support” already 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 suggests the implication made in the testimony is that long-term care homes wish not “to be held accountable at all.”

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