Patients fight care ‘lottery’
Lawsuit claims care for developmentally disabled adults arbitrary, inconsistent
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.