Pa­tients fight care ‘lot­tery’

Law­suit claims care for de­vel­op­men­tally disabled adults ar­bi­trary, in­con­sis­tent

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - RANDY RICH­MOND

A class-ac­tion suit launched on be­half of de­vel­op­men­tally disabled On­tario res­i­dents is tar­get­ing a so­cial ser­vice sys­tem that’s run like a game of chance, the lead lawyer says.

“Some­times it is like a lot­tery. It is no way to run a sys­tem of care,” Jody Brown of Koskie Min­sky in Toronto said Tues­day. “Fam­i­lies’ lives are on hold.”

The law firm has launched a class ac­tion suit on be­half of de­vel­op­men­tally disabled adults in On­tario await­ing ser­vices funded by the province, an is­sue that has sud­denly come un­der the spot­light in South­west­ern On­tario.

The law­suit is an­other sign the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment isn’t lis­ten­ing, Lon­don West New Demo­crat MPP Peggy Sat­tler said.

“It seems that the only way the cit­i­zens of On­tario can get ac­tion is to ba­si­cally shame them,” Sat­tler said.

The suit seeks $100 mil­lion from the province in dam­ages for neg­li­gence and an­other $10 mil­lion in puni­tive dam­ages for the lack of ser­vices.

Wait lists for ser­vices are “in­de­ter­mi­nate and ad­min­is­tered in an ad­hoc, in­con­sis­tent and un­rea­son­able man­ner, deny­ing el­i­gi­ble re­cip­i­ents statu­tory ben­e­fits which are nec­es­sary for their ba­sic daily hu­man needs and safety,” says the state­ment of claim that con­tains al­le­ga­tions not yet de­bated in court.

“Adults may spend years on the . . . wait lists, re­quir­ing fam­ily mem­bers or other care­givers to pro­vide the nec­es­sary ser­vices or sup­ports, or go­ing with­out such ser­vices,” the state­ment of claim says.

The de­lays and de­nial of ser­vice can cause de­vel­op­men­tally disabled adults pain, suf­fer­ing, loss of en­joy­ment of life, loss of the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of life, dam­age to their dig­nity and phys­i­cal health, de­pres­sion and new dis­or­ders, the state­ment of claim says.

The le­gal pres­sure for ac­tion comes on the heels of re­cent po­lit­i­cal and pub­lic pres­sure on the province.

In late March, Sat­tler raised sim­i­lar is­sues in the leg­is­la­ture about On­tario adults with com­plex med­i­cal needs and held a news con­fer­ence in Lon­don high­light­ing four cases.

One of those cases in­volved Alex Cha, a Lon­don man with cere­bral palsy, on the wait list at Par­tic­i­pa­tion House for more than 10 years and re­liant on his ag­ing mother for most of his care.

A story in The Lon­don Free Press Tues­day de­tailed the fam­ily’s strug­gles and wor­ries.

“I’m open to any­thing that gets more at­ten­tion from the gov­ern­ment. If it helps peo­ple, I’m all for it,” Jin Cha, Alex’s sis­ter, said about the law­suit for de­vel­op­men­tally disabled adults Tues­day.

It’s un­known how many adults in On­tario would be rep­re­sented by the law­suit, Brown said.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tive plain­tiff in the claim is Briana Ler­oux, a 19-year-old Tim­mins res­i­dent who needs help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Un­til she turned 18, the province pro­vided ser­vices through the Min­istry of Chil­dren and Youth Ser­vices, the state­ment of claim says. On her 18th birth­day, “all ser­vices . . . were ar­bi­trar­ily and un­rea­son­ably dis­con­tin­ued.”

She was ap­proved for de­vel­op­men­tal ser­vices by a re­gional of­fice and put on a wait list with­out any es­ti­mate of how long she would wait.

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