Class-action lawsuit filed against Good Samaritan Society over handling of COVID-19 outbreak

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Good Samaritan Society claiming that the organization was negligent in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent outbreak in one of its long-term care homes in Edmonton.

A total of 31 residents in Good Samaritan Southgate died after contracting COVID-19. It is the deadliest outbreak in an Alberta continuing-care facility, and, as of Friday, the outbreak had not been declared officially over.

Read more: Good Samaritan Southgate now Alberta’s deadliest long-term care outbreak

The lawsuit, which needs to be approved by a judge, alleges Good Samaritan Society was “systemically negligent in the management, operation, and provision of care to the residents,” “failed to properly and adequately plan for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic” and “failed to have adequate staff within [Good Samaritan Society] to care for the residents in a safe and competent manner.

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“Had [Good Samaritan Society] met the minimum standard of care expected of Alberta long-term care communities, they would have been able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately lessen the impact of COVID-19 to their residents,” the lawsuit reads.

The statement of claim also alleges the organization failed to train staff on how to properly use and dispose of PPE, failed to provide workers with adequate PPE and failed to follow acceptable practices regarding the prevention and containment of contagious respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19.

“COVID-19, yes, it’s possible for it to enter the premises, but where they failed was preventing the spread,” said Basil Bansal, lawyer with Diamond and Diamond Lawyers LLP, which filed the lawsuit.

“For most of the families, what they want is they want to see change.”

Read more: Concerns mount as nearly 30% of residents contract COVID-19 at Good Samaritan Southgate

Bansal said the types of change being sought include proper training of staff, proper screening of people as they enter and exit the building and proper isolation facilities.

“Our goals are two-[fold], getting compensation for these families who have suffered a loss and seeking change in how the Good Samaritan Society operates its homes,” he said.

The Good Samaritan Society said, in a statement to Global News, that it has received the statement of claim.

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“Since this is considered active litigation, I am sure you can appreciate that we are not in a position to make any further comment,” reads a statement from interim president and CEO Michelle Bonnici.

Good Samaritan CEO speaks as care-centre becomes Alberta’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak
Good Samaritan CEO speaks as care-centre becomes Alberta’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak

Ken Kozoway’s mother Helen, 94, died in July, less than a week after she tested positive for COVID-19. His family is one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“[I’m] trying to come to terms [with] how she died and why the care wasn’t there from the beginning,” he said.

“Considering what happened in Calgary and other places in B.C., Quebec, they were totally out of the loop.”

Read more: Canada’s proportion of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes top 16 other nations: study

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The lawsuit, which covers residents who contracted the virus and survived, as well as families whose loved ones died after testing positive for COVID-19, is seeking $20 million in damages.

However, Kozoway said the family is more interested in systemic change as opposed to the financial compensation.

The family was initially hesitant to pursue legal action but Kozoway said it was important to do so for the welfare and well-being of similar homes.

“How can we make it better for future outbreaks at other homes in Edmonton, Calgary, in Alberta, British Columbia? That’s the biggest thing right now – how can we, with the events that have happened, make it better for the older people in these homes?” he said.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

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