Last month, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyer’s Erik Joffe spoke to Law Times about the serious impact of COVID-19 on Canadian long-term care facilities and nursing homes. The pandemic has been particularly cruel to the elderly – in Canada, roughly half of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities. As the nation inches towards reopening, medical malpractice lawyers are considering how many deaths in retirement facilities can be attributed to negligence.
“The situation is fairly dire for nursing home and long-term care facilities throughout Ontario right now,” Joffe said. “We’ve seen a number of issues coming to a head, in particular at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon where 29 residents and the spouse of a resident have died due to COVID-19.”
The high number of fatalities can be attributed to a combination of resident vulnerability and systemic issues that hinder proper care. Ontario’s Long-Term Care Homes Act lays out strict rules to ensure residents’ material, social, and spiritual needs are met, and dictates what tasks doctors, nurses, and support workers can perform. As COVID-19 took hold, some of the measures necessary to limit its spread came into conflict with the Act. The government has since passed orders allowing greater flexibility; support workers can now perform a wider variety of tasks, and staff can prioritize care over administration.
However, new rules could also present challenges for medical malpractice lawyers. Joffe is concerned that record-keeping and reporting, which are essential to successful claims, will be neglected as facilities rush to stem the outbreak. The rules also prevent staff from working at multiple facilities, which was common practice prior to the virus. Ontario’s long-term care facilities are notoriously understaffed – between the one-facility rule and the growing number of infected workers, this serious issue may become a crisis.
Lawyers are also concerned that long-term care facilities will reject responsibility for preventable deaths, saying they were ill-equipped to handle the virus.
“As a plaintiff’s lawyer, I expect that kind of defence,” one lawyer told Law Times. “I don’t think it’s a just defence. I don’t think it’s a fair defence. I hope it’s not one that succeeds in our courts. That will be a sad day, in my view, if it does. COVID-19 cannot be a scapegoat here. There problems existed before COVID-19.”
If you or a member of your family has been injured in a long-term care facility, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers will continue to accept new clients throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.
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