The family of a woman who contracted COVID-19 while living at West End Villa is among plaintiffs seeking $15 million in damages as part of a class-action lawsuit, claiming the Ottawa long-term care home failed to protect residents and was negligent in their care.
The lawsuit comes as a 16th resident of the home has died since the outbreak began at the end of August. It is the largest and deadliest ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in long-term care in the province since the first wave hit long-term care homes last spring.
In a statement of claim, the plaintiffs say inadequate preventive and responsive measures and inadequate staffing at the home operated by Extendicare contributed to “mass spread” of COVID-19 at the home.
A spokesperson for Extendicare said the company has not received any documentation or notice related to the case, adding that the home has had a regular staff testing program in place since June to identify and isolate cases as early as possible, has had enough personal protective equipment to meet all provincial directives and is working closely with public health and The Ottawa Hospital.
“Our focus at this time is solely on providing quality care to our residents, keeping our families informed and supporting our staff,” the spokesman said. “Our hearts are with our community and those who have lost loved ones to this virus during this immensely challenging time.”
Among allegations in the statement of claim are that the home failed to implement a proper infection prevention and control program, contrary to the provincial long-term care act, that it failed to follow acceptable practices regarding prevention and containment of contagious respiratory illnesses and failed to properly train and retrain staff in infection prevention and control. The lawsuit also said the home failed to make safety upgrades in the building and to ensure West End Villa met the required design standards for long-term care homes.
The lawsuit claims Peggy Hannon, whose daughter and guardian Suzanne Zagallai is lead plaintiff, became infected with COVID-19 while living in a shared room at the home. The family said they had difficulty getting information about her condition and asked that she be moved to hospital for treatment but didn’t get a response. The lawsuit also claims that Hannon was not moved from her shared room, nor was her roommate, after she tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 18. She has since been moved to a single room.
The lawsuit claims the home failed to implement adequate hand-washing protocols and adequate social distancing, among other things.
The claim alleges that staffing shortages resulted in residents, including some who died, suffering from dehydration and malnutrition.
None of the claims has been proven in court. The lawsuit is not certified.
The Ottawa Hospital took over management of the home on Sept. 18.
Sixty-nine residents of the home have tested positive for COVID-19, 23 of them still have active cases that are being treated in the home and three are in hospital. Forty three staff members have tested positive, 38 of whom remain isolated at home.