Veterans’ class action suit update
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
WW II Veteran Wolf William Solkin’s class action suit against two levels of government and the CIUSSS is proceeding and he is keeping his fellow residents at the Ste. Anne’s Veterans Hospital up to date with his quarterly newsletter, The Veterans’ Voice/La Voix des Vétérans.
The class action lawsuit launched against the federal and provincial governments, along with the West Island Centres intégrés universitaires de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) alleging a sharp decline in the level of care at the Ste. Anne’s Veterans Hospital is going through all the legal motions at a relatively brisk pace by justice standards.
“It’s like an iceberg now,” said Wolf William Solkin, retired World War II veteran who initially brought the suit forth. “Everything’s going on under the surface.”
Solkin, who will turn 97 in February, is the plaintiff and the class includes all the veterans and residents, plus the estates of any residents who have since passed away following the transfer of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue facility from federal to provincial management.
“My lawyers did a somewhat morbid but clever thing,” he said. “I had three depositions. Facing me were seven lawyers – three from CIUSSS, two from the Attorney General of Quebec and two from the Attorney General of Canada.” Solkin’s lawyers, Laurent Kanemy and Michel Savonitto, petitioned the judge, and were granted, that the depositions will survive his death or incapacity. “My testimony will survive as though I were present.”
‘Where’s the money?’
The suit is seeking $30 million, the amount paid by the feds to the province to fulfill the mandate of caring for the increased needs of the remaining veterans of World War II and the Korean War. “Where has the money gone?” he asked. “No one’s been able to give me an answer. That’s one of the key contentions in this class action suit.”
Solkin alleges his and fellow veterans’ health and wellbeing have been negatively impacted since the transfer.
‘Drastic deterioration in care’
“Not only have they not continued the care, the quality has deteriorated drastically,” said Solkin, critical of the province’s decision to cut the facility’s workforce wages by 30 per cent, leading roughly 400 of the 1000 staff members to walk off the job on the day of the transfer while many nurses opted to take their retirement. He said procedures like catheter changes and, blood work and basic hygiene needs are not being adequately addressed due to the lack of staff.
The schedule for the myriad court dates has been set between now and December which Solkin said is remarkably fast for any class action suit. The permission to pursue the case was given by Judge Donald Bisson in February, 2019, the same judge who this week authorized a $500 million class action suit against the provincial network of nursing homes. In recognition of the average age of the veteran plaintiffs, the judge granted the request almost immediately. “We were surprised but very happy,” said Solkin’s wife Louise Langlois.
“And,” Solkin added, “The judge laced into the defendants mercilessly. In awarding us the recognition of the class action suit, he explained why he was making that decision. He said the defendants were ‘terribly negligent’ and ‘totally insensitive…’ He tore them a new one.”
At the time of the transfer, there were approximately 325 veterans at the facility in Ste. Anne’s, a population that has now declined to about 120 and the average age of the WW II veterans is in the mid-90s. Solkin, who himself served on the front lines in northwest Europe, mostly Holland and Germany in the Algonquin Regiment, said the younger veterans of the Korean War are now mostly in their mid-80s.
“We’re dying off,” he said. “We’re here to die, but with the proper level of care and dignity that we were promised.”
Feedback from the CIUSSS
When contacted by The Journal for comment, the media relations department of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal asked to first see a list of questions.
When Solkin’s allegations on the overall decline of quality of care, 30 per cent staff pay cuts, and fewer catheter changes, blood work and other medical procedures being performed were submitted, the agency replied, “A judicial process is currently under way. As such, we will not comment. That being said, we reiterate that providing our veterans and residents with the care and services to which they are entitled is always at the forefront of our priorities.”