Calgary

$25M class-action suit filed against Calgary nursing home where COVID-19 outbreak claimed 21 lives

A $25-million class-action lawsuit has been filed against the company that operates the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, alleging the company was negligent and did not follow proper protocols to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. 

The suit, which has yet to be certified, alleges the company was negligent in preventing the outbreak

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Revera Living, which operates this McKenzie Towne nursing home, where a COVID-19 outbreak saw 21 residents die. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A $25-million class-action lawsuit has been filed against the company that operates the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, alleging the company was negligent and did not follow proper protocols to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. 

The outbreak at the home, operated by Revera Living, has claimed 21 lives and seen a total of 62 residents and 44 staff test positive so far. Two residents and a staff member at a retirement home across the street, also operated by Revera, tested positive as well.

The outbreak at the retirement residence has been declared over but the larger outbreak at the continuing care centre is ongoing.

The application by James H. Brown and Associates and Guardian Law, filed on behalf of lead plaintiff Marijke Laberge, seeks damages for residents of the home who contracted COVID-19 and their immediate family members.

Laberge's mother moved into the home in late February, contracted COVID-19 on March 28 and died April 4. 

The class action will need to be examined and certified by a judge before it can proceed.

'There wasn't a plan,' lawyer says

Jonathan Denis, a partner at Guardian Law and a former Alberta attorney general, said the facility fell short of the standard that seniors deserve.

"We found there was a lack of preparation, there wasn't a plan to deal with the pandemic, there was inadequate spacing between residents ... staff were entering rooms without protective equipment and there was not enough staff to respond," he said.

"We are hoping that a matter like this brings change for better care for seniors in this province."

Previously, nurses have told CBC News they believe staffing shortages, a failure to properly clean and ineffective isolation practices contributed to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But Revera has said it has been working closely with Alberta Health Services to resolve the staffing shortages, denies any cleaning issues and says it's practising proper isolation protocols. The company operates more than 500 homes across North America and the U.K.

Long-term care homes have proven to be particularly vulnerable to outbreaks as often-frail residents live in close quarters that can facilitate the spread of infections, and the elderly are particularly at risk of negative outcomes if they contract the illness.

As of Tuesday, there were 105 active cases and 559 recovered cases at continuing care facilities in Alberta; 85 residents at those homes have died.

The class-action suit against Revera in Calgary is not alone in targeting long-term care homes for their response to COVID-19.

A suit in Ontario is seeking $100 million from Revera Retirement Living and Sienna Senior Living, and another is in the works in B.C. against Retirement Concepts. Neither lawsuit has yet been certified by a judge.

With files from Tahirih Foroozan

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