Roberta Place Long-Term Care targeted by two lawsuits

Barrie’s Roberta Place Long-Term Care home is the subject of two separate lawsuits alleging gross negligence in a devastating outbreak of COVID-19.

All but one of the home’s 129 residents and more than half the staff have been infected. Sixty-one residents and one essential caregiver have died since the outbreak was declared Jan. 8.

Marcella Lambie is the representative plaintiff in a $50-million action by Barrie firms Brock Medical Malpractice and Oatley Vigmond.

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 get him out.

“This should never, ever have happened,” Lambie told CTV through tears on Sunday.” This is his family. This is his home.”

Lawyer Gayle Brock is not deterred by 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 have 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.”

Darryl Singer, with Diamond and Diamond Lawyers says the search for answers is why by Sunday, more than 40 families connected to Roberta Place had reached out to join another, wide-ranging lawsuit.

The $500-million suit with some 15,000 plaintiffs names several major long-term care providers, municipalities, and the provincial government.

Singer says money is not a motivating factor for the Roberta Place families he’s spoken with.

“They want to know how it happened, why did it happened, how did the operators get away with running their facilities in such a way as to allow this to happen and what can be done to make sure that it doesn’t happpen in the future.”

Singer is hopeful his case will be certified by the courts by the end of 2021.

CTV News has reached out to Jarlette Health Services, which owns Roberta Place for comment on the legal actions but received no response.


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