B.C. long term care homes facing lawsuits for refusing to allow essential family visits - InfoNews

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B.C. long term care homes facing lawsuits for refusing to allow essential family visits

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July 07, 2020 - 6:00 AM

Not all visitors have been banned from long term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Essential family visits have been approved at many care facilities so people can help with things like feeding, communications and disabilities.

But not all homes have allowed such visitors either, including two Nanaimo facilities that were sent letters on June 30 by the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, threatening lawsuits if they don’t change their ways.

These two were selected for legal action because family members are willing to fight.

“I know there are other ones,” Jay Cameron, the lawyer handling the case for the justice centre told iNFOnews.ca. “We had a complaint from somebody else regarding another care home doing the exact same thing but, for personal reasons and her fear of repercussions against her family member, she didn’t want a letter going because she felt she would be identified. It’s certainly happening in other places.”

READ MORE: Fear of retaliation keeping people from speaking about issues in B.C.'s long-term care homes

The justice centre has been flooded with complaints about the way some long term care homes have been dealing with COVID-19 rules. There have been so many that it’s hard for their limited staff to deal with them all. But, if there are people who are willing to follow through and identify other homes, Cameron is willing to listen.

Or, family members can seek their own legal advice and launch their own lawsuits.

At issue is the fact that some residents’ health has been seriously impacted by the lack of family support.

“My husband started to get anxious and aggressive because he could not see me,” Cameron quoted one woman in his letter to the homes. “I used to go in every day at supper time and help him with his care. He misses me and does not understand why I have not been in to see him... he thinks I have dumped him there. He wants to see me, have me hold his hand, look him in the eye and tell him I love him, and everything will be okay.”

At the start of the pandemic, visitors were banned from long term care homes except those who were designated as “essential,” as defined by the health region or facility staff.

Each qualified resident was always allowed one essential visitor to help with feeding, mobility or personal care, communications, supported decision making or coping with disabilities.

Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry loosened the rules on other visitors, allowing one person to visit in a designated area at a scheduled time. Help with things like feeding will be allowed if this first stage of the easing of restrictions goes well, she said.

But the essential visits were always allowed and many homes have followed those rules.

“The individuals in question have been locked in their rooms for months,” Cameron said. “They’re deteriorating and declining and the things that make life worth living have been stripped away from them. They can’t even go outside. Their families can’t get in to see them. That’s not acceptable.”

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms can be contacted here.

The justice centre’s letter can be seen here.

The rules governing visits to care homes can be seen here.

READ MORE: Seniors advocates are pushing for permission to visit loved ones in long term care homes


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