WARNING: This story contains graphic details and images.

At a press conference Thursday, two families recounted the suffering their loved ones allegedly endured in long-term care homes operated by two industry giants, Extendicare and Leisureworld Senior Care Corporation, which have both been targeted by a pair of landmark class-action lawsuits.

Each of the class actions is seeking $150 million in damages to address “systemic negligence” at the companies’ homes, Amani Oakley, the lawyer who is leading both lawsuits, said Thursday.

“We’ve got to take it beyond simply cataloguing the misery and we need to start talking about fines, we need to start shutting down some of the homes… (and) halting admission until some of these issues are dealt with,” she told reporters. “We believe we will set standards. We believe that through the actions of the courts, we’re going to get some justice for some of these victims.”


Jospeh Novo, his family alleges, wasted away, dehydrated and malnourished after being placed in a Brampton, Ont. nursing home following a major stroke. The home was operated by Leisureworld, which has since been renamed Sienna Senior Living.

When Novo died less than two years later at age 65, his body was pitted with gaping bedsores, some so deep that bone could be seen poking through.

“They should never have got that bad,” his son, Jeffrey Novo, said at the Thursday’s press conference. “It wasn’t right.”

Shirley Murphy was 72 when she was placed in a Toronto nursing home operated by Extendicare.

On one occasion, her family alleges, a personal support worker told Murphy to “clean up her own mess” after she failed to get to the toilet on time. Murphy slipped, breaking her foot, and was left crying out for help for more than 20 minutes, they claim.

The family also alleges that Murphy’s catheter wasn’t changed for months, that she went weeks without being bathed and that her sores were not cleaned. Murphy died of a severe infection, just six months after arriving at the home.

“I’m coming forward for justice for my mom,” her daughter, Cynthia Deveraux, told reporters. “I’m coming forward for all the other families out there.”

While both families say they repeatedly complained to Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, they claim that subsequent inspections led to no palpable changes.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne weighed in on the lawsuits on Thursday.

“To the extent that any of these allegations are true, it’s extremely disturbing,” she said at a press event. “They should not happen”


Extendicare and Leisureworld operate 96 and 45 long-term care homes in Canada respectively. Both Extendicare and Leisureworld are private companies.

Oakley’s firm, Oakley & Oakley, has partnered law firms Howie, Sacks & Henry and Diamond & Diamond for the class actions. They have also set up what they call the ‘Nursing Home Action Coalition’ to handle what could turn into massive cases. The lawyers say they have received numerous calls about Extendicare and Leisureworld since news of the lawsuits broke Wednesday.

Hearing about the class-actions brought back painful memories for one woman, who shared a family member’s story with CTV News on condition of anonymity.

“In the length of time that my loved one was there, I saw neglect in many different forms,” the woman said of a nursing home. “I saw neglect in them being ignored... I witnessed first-hand verbal abuse on several occasions.”

The woman says she was since able to move her family member into another long-term care home, where they are now receiving better care.

“I really want it to get out that people are not alone in this, that something needs to be done for these people that can’t speak up for themselves,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else’s loved ones to have to live like that.”


Miranda Ferrier, the president and founder of Ontario Personal Support Workers Association told CTV News that she wasn’t surprised to hear about the allegations outlined in the lawsuits.

“At the end of the day, someone needs to be accountable (for) what happened,” she told CTV News. “I was disgusted by what I saw and heard.”

Ferrier’s association represents some 32,000 personal support workers in Ontario. A former personal support worker herself, she told CTV News that she “never worked a fully-staffed shift.” That, combined with an average ratio of one personal support worker per 12 to 15 residents, Ferrier said, leads to unintentional “neglectfulness.”

“They don’t have time to do the care correctly or adequately (and) it leads to staff burnout and anger and sloppy work,” she said. “Fortunately, these families have stepped forward… No change will happen until family members scream.”

Maureen Etkin, the executive director of non-profit Elder Abuse Ontario, believes that many of the problems experienced in long-term care homes boil down to a shortage of qualified staff and inadequate oversight -- issues that will only be exacerbated in the future in a country with an ageing population.

“It’s a longstanding issue,” she told CTV News. “If we don’t work on it today, when are we going to work on it? The shortage is there. It’s only going to get worse.”


Studies have shown that for-profit, privately run long-term care homes have both higher emergency department transfer rates and lower staffing levels than not-for-profit and publicly owned facilities.

Dr. Peter Tanuseputro of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute co-authored a 2015 study that also found that for-profit long-term care homes have higher mortality rates not-for-profit facilities.

“For-profit homes, on average, had a… 16 per cent higher death rate and a 30 per cent higher hospitalization rate than not-for-profit homes,” Tanuseputro told CTV News Channel.

Tanuseputro noted that quality of care varies widely in both for-profit and not-for-profit long-term care homes. But he hopes that the industry will now be pushed to set minimum standards of care, such as ensuring that residents of such facilities receive a minimum of four hours of individualized attention per day.

“I think this lawsuit will put some pressure on some of the changes that might need to happen to prevent some of these cases from happening in the future,” he said.


In a statement emailed to CTV News, a Sienna Senior Living spokesperson said that the company, which was formerly known as Leisureworld, is currently reviewing the claims outlined in the lawsuit.

“The health and wellbeing of all residents is our primary focus, and we take pride in the quality of care our team members provide,” they said. “Our mission is to help residents live fully, every day.”

Extendicare, however, was quick to discredit the class action.

“We do not believe this lawsuit has merit and intend to demonstrate this through the court process,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The spokesperson added that Extendicare cares “deeply about the residents, clients and families that we serve.”

“We reiterate our deep commitment to providing high-quality care to our residents and to doing better in any cases where we are thought to have fallen short of that goal,” they added. “We work with our residents and families to address issues and concerns and it is unfortunate when they cannot be resolved.”

The Ontario Long Term Care Association, which represents such homes, also issued a statement Thursday, saying that “there is no place in our homes for poor quality care or abuse.”

“Each and every long-term care professional works tirelessly to ensure seniors get the highest quality of care in all of our homes across Ontario,” the statement added. “(I)t is important for the public to understand that these types of incidents are not the norm in long-term care and that homes cannot make any profits from care funding -- despite some recent political posturing.”

With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip