Family alleges Quebec care home 'caused the deaths of at least 68 residents'
MONTREAL -- The daughter of a woman who lived at a long-term care facility in Montreal's TMR borough and died due to COVID-19 is seeking permission to launch a class-action lawsuit against the facility for alleged negligence causing her death.
Evangelina Morfonios’s mother, Olga Sarlis, lived at the Vigi Mont-Royal long-term care facility for four years and died on April 28 the age of 91.
"My mother, she may have had dementia, but she had so much life in her," said Morfonios. "She had time to live. She was the life of the residence."
She is not the only one, according to the document filed in the Montreal court.
“The residents of the CHSLD Vigi Mont-Royal were treated in a faulty, negligent and unsafe manner,” reads the lawsuit filed by lawyer Patrick Martin-Menard May 28 in Montreal.
CTV News reached out to Vigi Mont-Royal for comment, but did not receive a reply.
Martin-Menard is representing “every person who resided at CHSLD Vigi Mont-Royal since March 13, 2020, their spouse, their family caregiver(s), their children and grandchildren, their heirs and successors.”
The lawsuit alleges that Vigi Mont-Royal Sante had an obligation to provide services, listen to health directives and safeguard residents and staff during the pandemic.
The facility “failed to supply its staff with adequate personal protective equipment,” “wrongly or negligently omitted to train its staff in wearing protective equipment,” and “failed to provide residents and the staff with a sanitary and a safe facility.”
The suit alleges that Vigi failed to inform families about COVID-19 at the facility and acted recklessly by “neglecting to maintain, monitor and repair its ventilation system.”
The faults, the document reads, “resulted in the rapid spread of the disease to residents and personnel member (sic), resulting in multiple deaths and a severe shortage of personnel which created an unprecedented situation of systemic maltreatment towards vulnerable residents.”
The suit alleges Vigi Sante’s faults “have caused the deaths of at least 68 residents.”
The group of family members, the suit reads, have suffered psychological distress, trauma related to the circumstances and anguish and claim sums for moral damages and additional damages resulting from the death including funeral costs.
“Due to the exceptional nature and the gross negligence,” the suit reads, the group “is entitled to demand a sum in payment for exemplary damages.”
The suit recounts the evolution of COVID-19 in Quebec and globally, noting that Vigi recorded 40 confirmed cases April 13, accounting for 18 per cent of its 223 residents.
By May 8, 223 residents were infected and 145 employees, according to the suit.
The document also alleges that the facility suffered from a shortage of oxygen, basic medication and fluids to hydrate patients.
“A registered nurse, who had been dispatched to Vigi Mont-Royal, Catherine Levesque, published a video and a comment on Facebook, in which she denounced the situation of the residence, which she described as being a ‘big human carnage,'” the document reads.
She described multiple deaths in inhumane conditions, deceased patients in beds for over 24 hours, severe staff shortages and other conditions.
The provincial workplace health and safety board (CNESST) opened an investigation into conditions, the military was dispatched, which found, according to the document, issues with the ventilations system, staff shortages and lack of personal protective equipment.
Morfonios said her mother seemed happy in an April 6 video call after COVID-19 has spread and the facility was closed to visitors, but the family noticed the caregiver was not wearing a protective mask in the call, the document alleges.
The document details Salis’ deteriorating condition and heart-breaking pleas from the family to speak to their mother, who was transferred to the Jewish General Hospital where she passed away.
None of the allegations in the suit have been tested or proven in court.
FULL DISCLOSURE: The lead plaintiff in the case is an administrative employee at CTV Montreal.