The Disastrous Cocktail of COVID-19 and Old Age Homes

April 15, 2020, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

COVID-19 is known to have a mortality rate overall of around 1% which means that 1 in 100 people who get it will die. The mortality rate in the elderly is much higher reaching 5% for those aged 70-80 and almost 10% for those over 80. These warnings of high mortality rates in the elderly have been given since the initial reports of the disease began surfacing.

Populations of elderly, and centres that serve and house them, and regulating bodies at all levels have had ample time to institute protocols to protect the people most at risk. Old age homes and nursing homes generally have an at-risk population that is even more susceptible to death from COVID-19 due to the many underlying medical conditions that have landed them in nursing homes.

From the outset of the disease striking in China it was clear that the virus was spread through contact with airborne particles of spittle – the virus enters our bodies through our mucus membranes. Again, nursing homes and other institutions for the disabled and elderly had ample warning of a pending crisis. The governments across Canada and health units all had ample warnings.

For many years there has been systemic underfunding of group homes for the disabled, of nursing homes, and of homeless shelters. These funding shortfalls along with lax labour laws have resulted in the hiring of many part-time workers in lieu of a stable full-time staff complement. This in turn has resulted in many staff who work in the homes and shelters in particular being forced to take several part-time jobs at several locations in order to make a living. Staff working in many places become vectors – or channels of transmission – for diseases of all kinds. The seasonal flu, colds, and more serious diseases like COVID-19 all pose threats to these fragile populations.

There have been claims by these homes of lack of funding and access to and for gloves, masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect themselves and their clients. For years there have also been claims of neglect and abuse in homes due to the lack of adequate staff numbers to serve clients. Inspections of homes by regulators have been reported to be nearly non existent by CBC news with only 9/626 homes in Ontario undergoing resident quality inspections despite the Ontario Governments own assurances that “each care home undergoes an annual inspection that includes interviews with residents, family members and staff as well as direct observations of how care is being delivered."

We are now seeing the outcome of disastrous funding policies, lax inspections, poorly designed labour laws, and the delay in ordering homes to restrict staff to working in only one location. All of these shortcomings have resulted in horrific numbers of deaths in old age homes across Canada. Reports of massive death tolls, elderly left sitting in their own filth for days, lack of feeding and drink provision resulting in residents starving and becoming disoriented, patients not being given medications, and simply lack of humanity abound. In Quebec the premier was visibly shaken when describing that the treatment of serniors in ‘looks a lot like major negligence’. In several locations police have been called in to investigate and criminal investigations are ongoing.

Ontario’s premier is equally shaken with reports of death tolls in homes in the province. He ordered that staff must only work at one home finally yesterday, April 15, 2020, more than a month after province wide lock downs were announced and several weeks after the province of B.C. did the same. His plan is to announce more details in the upcoming days on infection control in seniors’ homes and group homes. It seems the jails and homeless shelters are not at the front of the line.



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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

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