Nova Scotia

Families expand proposed Northwood lawsuit to include province

Families who are suing the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax say the province holds some responsibility for the way the facility was set up with double and triple rooms, and for providing staff with protective equipment.

Lawsuit alleges province partly responsible for setup at Halifax facility at centre of N.S. COVID-19 outbreak

Northwood's long-term care facility in Halifax is the subject of a lawsuit which is being expanded to include the province of Nova Scotia. (Robert Short/CBC)

Families suing the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax in the wake of this spring's deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the facility are expanding the scope of a proposed class-action lawsuit to include the province of Nova Scotia.

The lawyer representing the families, Ray Wagner, said Wednesday the province holds some responsibility for the way the care home was set up with double and triple rooms, which Northwood and public health officials have acknowledged played a role in spreading the virus.

He said the families also say the province failed to lock down the facility quickly enough once it was apparent COVID-19 was spreading within Canada. The province did not provide enough protective gear to staff and didn't take appropriate steps to prevent staff from becoming sick or working in multiple facilities, he said. 

Fifty-three people died at Northwood during the outbreak of the virus, which started in early April and was declared over on June 10. The proposed class-action was launched earlier this month. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Wagner said the families chose to add the province to the lawsuit after learning that Northwood had applied to the government for funding to add three floors to its Centre building in order to provide each resident there a single room. The funding has not been granted.

"So it appeared that it would be very difficult to separate the province and Northwood in that the operations seem to be intricately involved, with both parties being heavily involved in terms of the setup in that particular institution that led to the unfortunate deaths of so many people," Wagner said. 

(Dave Irish/CBC)

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness, Heather Fairbairn, wrote in an email to CBC that the province cannot comment as the matter is before the court.

About 25 families who lost loved ones at Northwood due to COVID-19 have joined the lawsuit. No dollar amount has been specified, but Wagner said due to the number of family members, his early estimation of the collective damages they are seeking would be in the "million or millions" of dollars.

Wagner said the families also have an interest in understanding why the virus was able to kill so many people in Northwood.

"It is the historical background," Wagner said. "One of the things that we are very much interested in is a restorative approach, and in what we mean as a restorative approach, that you have to look historically what had happened and why we got to the place where we were when the pandemic hit." 

Wagner said he expects the lawsuit could be certified as a class action in 2021.

About the Author

Shaina Luck

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Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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