4 long-term care homes must take more steps to protect staff from COVID-19, judge rules
Judge grants injunction ordering homes to comply with infection control, health standards
Ontario's Superior Court of Justice granted an injunction Thursday to the nurses' union in the province — ordering four long-term care homes where dozens of patients have died of COVID-19 to comply with provincial infection control and health standards.
The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) filed for the injunction last Friday, accusing the homes of failing to adequately protect their staff from the novel coronavirus.
Eatonville Care Centre Inc., Anson Place Care Centre and Hawthorne Place Care Centre — all owned by Rykka Care Centres, which is an operating partner of Responsive Group — as well as Henley Place in London were all named in the injunction.
So far, more than 70 patients have died of COVID-19 at the four facilities combined, and several nurses working at the homes owned by Rykka Care have contracted the virus.
In his ruling, Justice Edward Morgan wrote: "Where the lives of nurses and patients are placed at risk, the balance of convenience favours those measures that give primacy to the health and safety of medical personnel and those that they treat."
The ONA, which represents more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates,.had asked that the court "on an urgent basis" issue mandatory orders addressing what the union described as serious health and safety problems at the facilities, including shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns.
The union also asked the court for an injunction requiring the centres to refrain from ongoing breaches of directives issued by the chief medical officer of health for Ontario on March 30 and April 2.
The directives pertain to practices and procedures in long-term care homes and to the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) — including N95 respirator masks — in those facilities, during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The ONA wanted the homes to take any and all reasonable precautionary measures to ensure that nursing staff receive health and safety protections as directed by the chief medical officer of health.
"Nurses are not to be impeded in making an assessment and determination at point of care as to what PPE or other measures are appropriate and required under the circumstances," Morgan wrote in his decision.
"That assessment and determination is to be made on the basis of their professional judgment, taking into account the immediate situation as well as relevant longer and shorter-term considerations," he added.
'We will continue to comply,' Responsive Management says
Reacting to the ruling, Responsive Management Inc. said it is comfortable with the court's decision, noting that it confirms for all parties that the chief medical officer of health's directives are appropriate to protect staff in long-term care.
"We will continue to comply with all the chief medical officer of health directives and the order of the court," vice- president of operations Linda Calbarese wrote in a statement.
Calbarese said all staff across all their homes have had access to the necessary PPE as outlined by "the very stringent safety requirements" from the Ministry of Health.
Long-term care nurses pleased with ruling, ONA says
Meanwhile, the ONA said its members working in long-term care facilities are relieved that the ruling orders the long-term care homes to immediately rectify several serious health and safety issues that have resulted in devastating COVID-19 outbreaks.
"It is truly a huge relief to know that after exhausting all other avenues, the Ontario Superior Court has agreed with ONA that these employers must follow health and safety practices to prevent the spread of infection among long-term care residents and the registered nurses and health professionals who care for them," said ONA president Vicki McKenna.
"ONA is thrilled that our members will have access to the proper protective equipment they need to protect themselves, and therefore their residents, and that the homes' administrators will be forced to follow infection control practices — and put safety over profit."