Class-action lawsuit filed against Barrie, Ont., long-term care home Roberta Place
BARRIE, ONT. -- More than two dozen families have indicated they would like to join a lawsuit alleging gross negligence at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home devastated by a deadly COVID-19 outbreak.
The virus infected 128 residents and 104 staff at Roberta Place, while 63 people died amid the outbreak that was declared on Jan. 8.
Marcella Lambie is the representative plaintiff in a $50 million action by Barrie firms Brock Medical Malpractice and Oatley Vigmond LLP.
Her brother George Head has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Lambie says she feels incredible guilt, seeing her brother's health deteriorate, knowing she can't remove him from the facility.
"This should never, ever have happened," Lambie told CTV through tears on Sunday." This is his family. This is his home."
Lawyer Gayle Brock said she is not deterred by the recently-passed Ontario legislation that critics say shields long-term care homes from legal action.
"We have specific allegations of negligence against Roberta Place, primarily that comes out of the Ministry of Long-Term Care inspection report, and we see serious areas of sub-standard care that we think will extend beyond the bill."
Ministry reports highlighted issues inside Roberta Place, including infected and non-infected residents rooming together, improper use of personal protective equipment, and a lack of staff cohorting.
Lambie cannot reconcile the gaunt brother she's seen through a screen the last few days with the man she says was happy and healthy around Christmas.
"Somebody needs to explain this to me. I did not leave him like this. He was supposed to be well-cared for, isolated." Lambie said. "This isn't right. He didn't deserve this."
Robert Durante, Oatley Vigmond, said that about 25 families had reached out to join the class-action lawsuit in Barrie in addition to Lambie and her brother. "They deserve answers about what happened. How could this go horribly wrong here in Barrie, in our backyard, in my backyard?"
In a statement on Monday, Jarlette Health Services said, "We are aware of the lawsuit that has been filed against Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home, and we would like to once again extend our heartfelt condolences to all those who have been impacted by the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak.
We acknowledge that the outbreak remains extremely difficult, and we have a tough road ahead. However, our commitment to our residents, family members, team members and our community remains steadfast.
At this time, our efforts are focused on the evolving needs of the home and its residents and team members as we continue to work in close partnership with Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and other organizations.
While recognizing that Roberta Place has been at the epicentre of this matter as it has evolved over the past three weeks, we wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the risk that the U.K. variant poses to the public at large. Causing aggressive transmission and rapid symptoms and/or deterioration, we implore our community to consider this incredibly dangerous and to exercise every precaution.
Safeguarding those we serve remains our top priority, despite the challenges we have faced, and our provision of care will always extend to the community of Barrie as well."
With files from CTV's Mike Arsalides