The actions and “bad faith” of the Ontario government during the SARS outbreak of 2003 show health-care professionals must be better protected for the next pandemic, lawyers argued yesterday as the province’s highest court heard arguments about five lawsuits Ontario faces.

The lawsuits — launched by nurses, hospital patients and families of victims who died — allege the province failed to do everything it could to stop the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed 44 people in the GTA.

It’s also alleged the province prematurely declared the crisis over so the World Health Organization would lift a travel warning that halted tourism.

Fifty-one-year-old Neila Laroza, who was the first nurse to die of SARS, loved her job and was committed to taking care of other people, but the province let her down by telling her it was safe to work when it wasn’t, her 21-year-old son Kenneth said outside court.

Family lawyer Lisa Miron called the case “SARS-gate,” and said the province acted in bad faith by putting economic concerns about tourism ahead of public health.

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