London, Ont. long-term care home charged in relation to COVID-19 outbreak that killed nurse
A long-term care facility in London, Ont. is facing charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a COVID-19 outbreak that killed a registered nurse.
The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) welcomes the charges, but says the tragedy could have been prevented with greater oversight.
Brian Beattie was 58 years old when he died of COVID-19 in May of 2020. He was diagnosed with the disease two weeks prior to his death and was the first pandemic-related death of an Ontario nurse.
ONA President Vicki McKenna said, "It is heartbreaking and it's tragic but what the real tragedy will be is if nothing changes."
Beattie had been working overnights at the Kensington Village long-term care home for about 18 months, but had been a nurse for 23 years. He was among eight staff to test positive.
Five residents also died during the outbreak in the spring of 2020. Now the operator of Kensington Village, Sharon Farms and Enterprises Limited faces three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
"These charges are important, they're very serious. It is uncommon for employers to have charges laid against them," McKenna said.
Beattie is the only member of the 70,000-member ONA to have died from COVID-19.
In a statement, ONA said Beattie had raised concerns about PPE, but at the time of his death Kensington officials issued a statement saying all staff were being given appropriate personal protective equipment.
McKenna added, "He was the guy out front of this and he is the guy that succumbs to COVID-19. It's just…there's no other word to describe it other than tragedy."
The charges issued by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development include:
- Failing to provide one or more written notices of occupational illness to a director under s. 52(2) of the Act.
- Failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker or workers to protect the health or safety of the worker or workers contrary to s. 25(2)(a) of the Act.
- Knowingly furnishing an inspector with false information, contrary to s. 62(3)(a) of the Act.
The ministry says these are the first COVID-19-related charges against an Ontario long-term care home.
They carry a maximum fine of $1.5 million per count, plus a surcharge. The next court date is set for Dec. 6 in London.
Minister of Long-Term Care Rod Phillips said he can't speak directly to the charges against Kensington Village because it's a matter before the courts.
But he did add, "This is exactly the kind of cooperation I've talked about before. The Ministry of Labour, public health, and the Ministry of Long-Term Care will be working together, collaboratively."
Tracie Klisht, executive director of Kensington Village, released a statement by email Tuesday evening, but referred any future inquiries to their counsel. The statement is below in its entirety.
Kensington Village statement
"Sharon Village Care Homes has always strived to provide, and maintain, a safe workplace for all our employees. During COVID we welcomed MOL inspections and recommendations.
"We are evaluating the charges that have been laid and are working with Counsel on our formal response. It is important that we let this process unfold.
"It is important to note, that the charges that have been laid are not related to any employee’s death nor are they related to the availability of PPE for staff and residents. Any suggestion otherwise is misleading and a disservice to our staff and families.
"We'll continue to work with our healthcare partners in our community to provide a safe and comfortable home for our residents and a safe and rewarding workplace for our staff."
- With files from CTV News London's Justin Zadorsky