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ONA 'thrilled' with court decision on safety practices in nursing homes

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A Superior Court judge has issued an injunction forcing Ryyka Care Centres – parent company of the Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville – to follow the advice of senior nursing staff when it comes to treating seniors suffering from COVID-19.

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In approving the application from the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Justice Edward Morgan cited the “precautionary principle.”

The precautionary principle states that any errors in the management of a crisis must be made on the side of caution and that all reasonable measures must be taken to keep people safe.

In his ruling, Morgan wrote that nurses are “sacrificing their personal interests to those under their care…not only for the immediate benefit of their patients, but for the benefit of society at large.”

The judge also called the respondents’ suggestion “ironic” that ONA’s request for proper protective gear and the quarantining of sick seniors was motivated by self-interest. Morgan added that management’s assessment on this count “seems to sorely miss the mark.”

The judge said individual nurses are under no obligation to sacrifice “their personal interests to the persons under their care.”

Other Rykka Care facilities cited in the court action include Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, where there have been nearly 40 deaths from COVID-19, and Hawthorne Care Centre in Toronto, which has reported eight deaths.

ONA also won a separate injunction involving Henley Place in London, which is operated by Primacare Living Solutions. Two residents there have died from the COVID-19 virus.

All told, more than 125 seniors homes in Ontario have reported COVID-19 outbreaks during the pandemic.

Responsive Management of Toronto is the umbrella group overseeing Rykka Care Centres facilities.

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Linda Calabrese, vice president of operations, is listed in provincial records as the licence holder for a number of Rykka properties. In a statement following the court ruling, Calabrese said Rykka Care is already effectively compliant.

“Responsive Management is comfortable with the decision from the Ontario court responding to an application made by ONA,” Calabrese said.

“It confirms for all parties that the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dr. David Williams) 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.

“We hope, with the co-operation of ONA, to move to arbitration quickly so we can confirm our compliance with the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s directives.

“All staff across all our homes have had access to the necessary protective personal equipment as outlined in the very stringent safety requirements from experts at Public Health and the Ministry of Health. We are committed to providing a safe environment for our staff.”

For their part, ONA is “thrilled” with the court’s decision.

“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,” ONA president Vicki McKenna said in a statement.

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“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.”

Personal protective equipment includes face masks, face shields, disposable latex gloves, and disposable gowns.

“Now, nurses and health-care professionals will have access to appropriate PPE, residents will be cohorted, and proper infection control measures will be brought into these homes,” McKenna continues. “I am optimistic these measures may soon result in putting out the raging spread of COVID-19 in these homes.”

ONA represents 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals. The union also represents 18,000 nursing student affiliates.

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