It’s never easy for Lori Dekervor to come back to Pine Hills Cemetery in Toronto where her father lies buried. There are too many memories. Too much hurt.
“My father was precious to me,” she told CTV’s W5 in an interview. “I trusted them to take care of him and they didn’t. And he suffered because of them.”
Dekervor’s dad, Arthur Ross Jones, known as Ross, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease when he was 66. It’s a form of dementia that also includes symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Jones moved into Main Street Terrace in Toronto, a nursing home operated by Revera Inc., a giant Canadian chain which owns 500 senior facilities worldwide, including 76 long term care homes in Canada; 53 of those facilities are in Ontario.
Dekervor thought he’d be safe and cared for, but about a year after moving in, her dad began to deteriorate, she recalled.
“I noticed a decline in his conversations and he became very unhappy. He said they were hurting him and he wanted to go home. At the time I thought that he was just having hallucinations.”
Then in May 2014, Dekervor received a phone call from staff at Main Street Terrace. She remembers being told her 68-year-old father had fallen. What she didn’t know was that he had fallen not once, but twice and injured himself so badly, he was bedridden.
According to a report from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long term care, Ross Jones was left mostly immobile in bed for 11 days.
On Day 12, according to Dekervor, her father was found verbally unresponsive, with a rapid heart rate, high respiratory rate and an elevated temperature.
He was rushed to emergency at Toronto Western Hospital where Jones was diagnosed with suspected pneumonia. To his daughter’s horror, she discovered a massive open wound on his lower back that was laced with feces. Doctors told her that her father was going to die.
“At the base of his spine. That whole part was gone”, said Dekervor, who still cries at the thought of the fetid bedsore. “That body part was gone. And it was like, there was white in there. It was gangrenous.”
After Ross Jones died, Lori Dekervor desperate for answers as to how this could have happened to her father, contacted Revera, the Ontario Ministry of Health, Toronto Police and the Ombudsman of Ontario.
“I realized I had fallen into a rabbit hole,” she told W5.
Revera refused to discuss the specifics of Ross Jones’ case with W5, citing privacy rules. However, John Beaney, Vice-President of Operations for Revera, did express his deepest sympathy for Dekervor’s loss. “We agree that situations like this are very concerning.”
“Long term care is safe and Revera is passionate about what we provide,” Beaney said in an interview, in which he spoke of the challenges facing long-term care providers dealing with an increasingly aging population.
“(Revera) tries to provide the best care we can, within the framework that the government provides us,” said Beany, who also pointed to a an internal survey which showed a 93-percent family satisfaction rating for the care provided.
“We’re always trying to do better and we’re always trying to improve.”
But Lori Dekervor was far from satisfied with the care her father had received, or the responses from Revera. Frustrated, she reached out to lawyer Amani Oakley, who specializes in medical malpractice law.
In October 2016 Oakley launched a civil class action lawsuit against Revera, alleging negligence in providing care. Lori Dekevor was listed as the lead plaintiff.
“The court system that we have in Canada does not award well for what these individuals go through in nursing homes,” said Oakley, who pointed out that most civil actions are settled out of court for undisclosed amounts.
In its investigation, W5 found only a few cases that went to trial, resulting in settlements ranging from $15,000 for pain and suffering, to $180,000 for loss of companionship.
After announcing her suit against Revera, other families began to come forward with their own claims of neglected care. Thirty families have now joined the suit, which has yet to be certified by the court.
“We have all kinds of cases of bed sores, maggots in wounds, repeated falls that aren’t stopped, attacks by one resident on another, attacks by home employees on residents,” recounted Oakley.
The class action, considered ground-breaking, is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada. The plaintiffs are seeking $200-million in damages.
“So instead of dealing with thirty, fifty, one hundred individual claims, the court deals with one class action and it’s better all around,” said Oakley.
“We don’t believe the class action has merit. We are prepared to follow that court process,” said Revera vice-president John Beaney.
“As you will appreciate, to any of the cases that are before the court, they are ongoing legal cases. We don’t discuss any of our residents publically. We don’t do that to respect their privacy, even if their families choose to do so.”
In a later email to W5, Revera noted that it has never been sued by a resident, a resident’s family or representative and lost.
However, Oakley says she has sued Revera in the past and settled out of court.
Oakley and Dekervor aren’t deterred by the likelihood that the class action process could last years.
“Any litigation that deals with medical matters is generally a five to seven year ordeal,” said Oakley, who won’t draw a cent, until there is a settlement.
“I have seven years where every cost involved in this will come out of my pocket. If I lose at the end of all of this I lose both seven years of time and all the money that I’ve put into the litigation.”
For her part, Dekervor is determined, no matter how long it takes, to get justice for her father.
“It means, they know that there is a line in the sand, that they can’t treat people like this. There’s no more scot free, there’s no more slap on the wrist. It’s a precedent. We will fight back."