As of May 20, 2020, Northwood Halifax has confirmed 244 cases of COVID-19 among its vulnerable elderly residents, and 97 cases among its staff members, with a current death toll of 52. On April 5, 2020, the first reported case stemmed from a staff member caring for residents. Within days COVID-19 had spread throughout Northwood, its staff members, and its residents. In Nova Scotia, Northwood has been called the epicentre of this highly contagious and deadly virus, and it holds claim to the vast majority of deaths due to COVID-19, province-wide. Northwood Halifax operates a Long-Term Care Facility with approximately 600 elderly and vulnerable residents and 400 staff-members. Some residents share rooms, dining areas, soap, personal care items, and a communal ice machine for drinking water.
Concerns and warnings of the COVID-19 virus commenced months before the virus’ arrival in Nova Scotia. In January 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a Public Health Emergency, advising that healthcare facilities should enhance standard infection prevention and control practices. News from Canada and abroad focused on the spread of COVID-19, with a particular emphasis on the vulnerability of the elderly. By February, public health recommendations were ubiquitous, with a clear and simple message: the only reliable means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 was to maintain and enforce physical distancing, along with quarantining for those who may be infected. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 is a pandemic, with alarming levels of spread and severity.
Notwithstanding advance warning of the pandemic, knowledge about those most at risk, and how the rapid spread of infection could be mitigated, by the time the pandemic hit Nova Scotia, Northwood appears to have been operating under less than stringent controls. In 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 strictly regulated. It was reported by the media that communal space for smokers, which had not been regulated during the pandemic, may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19. With the alarming number of confirmed cases, and high death toll at Northwood, it must be asked – what went wrong? Many families have been impacted by the death of their loved ones at Northwood, due to COVID-19 or related complications.
Wagners is currently investigating filing a class action on this matter. If you or a family member have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood, Wagners can be contacted at 902-425-7330 or toll-free at 1-800-465-8794 or by email at [email protected].