A multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit has been launched against Revera Nursing Homes after a woman says her father died from an infected bed sore that went unnoticed and festered into an oozing stage-four ulcer.
Amani Oakley, the lawyer leading the suit, says the father of her client, Lori DeKervor, was taken to hospital in May 2014 after being found unresponsive in his room at the Main Street Terrace nursing home in Toronto's east end.
Arthur Ross Jones, who went by "Ross," was a resident at Main Street Terrace for about 11 months. His family alleges he fell twice at the facility but was never examined by a doctor and was left to suffer with pressure sores that resulted from him being bed-bound. Two weeks after his first fall on May 12, he was found unresponsive. He died about a month later on June 8, 2014.
"He died a painful 13th-century death, while being looked after by a giant business entity that is making a ton of money on the basis of its promise to deliver reliable, professional health care to our parents," DeKervor said Wednesday in a release. "He deserved better than this."
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During a news conference at Queen's Park on Thursday, DeKervor said she was told about her father's falls but was assured by staff that they were minor. She then got a call saying that he had pneumonia. She flew in from San Diego and found her dad in pain.
"He would be screaming and moaning," DeKervor said. "Sometimes he would say, 'stop the suffering.' And I just didn't feel that pneumonia would cause that kind of agony."
She also noticed a bad odour in her father's room. She stripped him of his clothes and found the oozing wound on his backside. She asked the doctor what it was, and she was told it was a sacral ulcer.
"I had never been made aware that this wound existed," she said. "And I was shocked."
After DeKervor returned home she reviewed her father's medical records. She found that the only pain medication that had been ordered for him was Tylenol. Oakley said there is no evidence he ever received it.
"This is something you would think would happen in some sort of developing country where there are no medical supplies, or in some sort of camp in a war-torn country," DeKervor said. "This isn't something that would happen here."
Allegations include negligent care, inadequate investigations
Currently, DeKervor is the only name on the class-action suit, but Oakley anticipates others will join. On Thursday, Oakley said her office has received numerous calls from people inquiring about the legal action.
In the last few years, the lawyer says her firm has received numerous complaints regarding Revera Nursing Homes and that's why she decided to launch a suit against the company. The allegations against the company include negligent care, inadequate investigations and failure to meet ministry care standards.
Oakley also alleges that paperwork and assessments required by Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-term Care when falls happen in nursing homes were not done.
"Revera is not being taken by surprise here," Oakley told reporters Thursday. "Revera has had notice of these concerns for years and years and years, whether it be directly from relatives who've complained, the residents who've complained or media stories."
The statement of claim was issued by the court in June, Oakley said, and Revera was served earlier this week.
Company says case has no merit
The system currently in place in Canadian courts is not sufficient to respond to concerns like DeKorver's, Oakley said Wednesday. "Courts award very little for pain and suffering. If a person passes away from their injuries, their case drops down to very small numbers because there's no major care component."
During Thursday's news conference, Oakley explained that in a civil action, the court seeks to assign a monetary amount to pain and suffering, loss of income and other factors. But for seniors, some of those factors no longer apply, such as loss of income because they are likely no longer working, future care costs because of their age, or their ability to care for dependents.
As she considered taking on the case, Oakley said her office's investigation into the company turned up numerous reports similar to Jones's experience.
"We found quite a number of instances of cases of Revera residents being injured, being left unattended, being allowed to fall. Serious situations. For example, one woman ended up with maggots in a wound in a Revera nursing home," Oakley said.
Revera owns homes across the country and says that it provides proper care to its residents.
"As this matter is before the courts, and with respect for the system and for all parties involved, we cannot speak to the specifics of the lawsuit," said John Beaney, vice president of operations for Revera Ontario.
"We do not believe, however, that this case has merit and intend to participate in the court process."
On Thursday, Oakley called the lawsuit "a game-changer" and the first of its kind in Canada.
"I think that given the sheer magnitude of people coming forward with concerns, it makes sense to join up as a group and see if we can resolve this thing as a group."