Roberta Place has been named as part of a mega class action against about 100 long-term care homes in Ontario on behalf of family members of those who have died because of COVID-19.
Darryl Singer of Diamond and Diamond Lawyers told Barrie 360 on Sunday he believes there are about 40 to 50 families who have reached out to the firm to sign up for the lawsuit, and at least three staff members.
The outbreak at Roberta Place has been linked to the UK variant of COVID-19. As of Friday, 53 residents had died and 84 staff were infected. Only one of the 129 residents had not tested positive for the virus. An essential caregiver also passed away.
Singer said the mega action lawsuit alleges the operators of these homes were not just negligent, but grossly negligent.
“This is a much higher standard in the operation of these homes,” explains Singer. “In the sense they ought to have been ready going back to March for the first wave, let alone the second wave.”
Singer claims they have evidence that supports their position that many of these facilities did not have sufficient stockpile of PPE (personal protective equipment) and did not properly isolate the first patients who had COVID.
He alleges that in the first wave people were allowed in and out of these homes, both families and staff.
“If you go back to the first wave, it took most operators a couple of months before they stopped allowing family visits,” said Singer. “You have this problem with PSWs (personal support workers) and other workers who work at multiple facilities. And the reason for that is because the operators of the homes don’t want to hire them full time. And so, the poor people are forced to, you know, work at two or three different homes in order to cobble together a full time living.”
Singer said it comes down to “profits over people.”
He said the fact a new variant entered Roberta Place changes nothing. Singer noted the rules have been the same from public health all along.
“Had they been prepared for a viral outbreak, they would have been prepared for a viral outbreak regardless of the variant.”
Singer said at some point the lawyers involved in assembling the mega class action will ask the court to certify the case. He is hoping that will happen toward the end of 2021. Singer adds that he has no doubt the case will be certified.
The suit also names major long-term care providers across Ontario but not limited to Chartwell, Extendicare, and Sienna owned facilities, according to a Jan 13, 2021 media release on the webpage of Diamond and Diamond Lawyers.
In the release, the firm also names the Ontario government as well as several municipalities including Hamilton, Toronto, Essex, Ottawa and more.
Singer explained municipalities are included because those are ones that operate homes that have had a large number of deaths.
“The Ontario government is included because we say that the operators of the long-term care homes would not have been able to be as unprepared if the government had actually enforced what it was supposed to enforce,” he said.
Singer said they are considering lawsuits with respect to the workers at these long-term care homes, but it would only involve non-unionized workers because the collective agreement of unionized workers precludes them from being involved in anything else.
Roberta Place has more than 100 unionized staff.