The Northwood nursing home on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner

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Northwood Care Group Inc. has been hit with a class-action lawsuit filed by lawyer Ray Wagner on behalf of a woman whose 66-year-old mother was a Northwood Centre resident who got COVID-19 and died on April 22.

The lawsuit alleges Northwood should not have moved Patricia West on March 26, 2020 from her single room in Northwood Manor to a shared room and bathroom in Northwood Centre. The document states managers knew the risk COVID-19 posed to vulnerable elderly residents unless physical distancing was maintained. West suffered from dementia. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11.

West’s daughter Erica Surette is the lead plaintiff in the class action but three other families of deceased Northwood residents have also contacted the lawyer.

A total of 53 residents in the 485-bed Northwood Halifax complex have died as a result of the virus which swept through Northwood Centre after workers who had no outward symptoms brought it into the building. The lawsuit alleges Northwood failed to act soon enough to provide workers with Personal Protective Equipment and to prevent residents from sharing common areas.

The statement of claim alleges “that Northwood had full knowledge and advance warning of the dangers and health risks posed by a COVID-19 pandemic, and they knew how the rapid spread of infection could be mitigated by maintaining and enforcing physical distancing. Yet, they maintained the status quo at the cost of numerous individuals’ safety and lives. In mid-March, residents continued to share rooms and bathrooms with one or even two others, common areas were not restricted, and visitors and staff were not closely regulated.”

The case will not proceed until a judge hears arguments about whether a class-action can be certified against the non-profit nursing home and its six related companies which provide homecare and other services to thousands of families.

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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