Francophones fear that Bill 7 will violate the language rights of LTC patients

Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra says patients’ rights will be respected, but advocates want the right to French-language services specifically spelled out in the bill’s regulations

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Advocates say Ontario’s More Beds, Better Care Act (Bill 7) could threaten the rights of Franco-Ontarians to receive care in the language of their choice.

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The law, which was passed by the Ontario legislature on August 31, allows health authorities to move patients who are in hospitals waiting for long-term care beds to a home they don’t have. have not chosen in order to free up hospital space.

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The law has drawn widespread criticism from those who say it flouts the rights of the elderly, disabled and others in need of long-term care. Advocates for the elderly say this places a disproportionate burden of the health care crisis on the backs of those waiting for long-term care beds.

The impact of the law on Francophones raises other concerns, especially since there are a limited number of Francophone long-term care spaces in the province.

Last week, Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Lucille Collard raised the issue during Question Period at Queen’s Park.

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She says that francophone families are worried.

“Families are afraid (their loved ones) of being moved to homes far from their homes where they cannot have services in French,” she said.

Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra responded that patients’ rights will be respected. But advocates want the right to French language services specifically spelled out in the bill’s regulations, which are expected to be released in more detail in the coming days. They should also contain details of how far patients awaiting long-term care could be moved while waiting for a permanent bed.

Jacinthe Desaulniers, President and CEO of the French Language Health Services Network of Eastern Ontario, said she understands the difficult situation in Ontario hospitals at the moment and the need to bold strategies to address it, but she said language must be a key decision-making factor when it comes to moving hospital patients waiting for a long-term care bed.

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“I would like to see in the regulations (for the law) that distance and linguistic identity are two factors taken into account,” she said.

Currently, so-called ALC (alternate level of care) patients who are in hospital beds awaiting transfer to long-term care are asked to create a list of five homes they would prefer to live in. Under the More Beds, Better Care Act, patients can be moved to a home that is not on their preferred list. Critics say that despite long waits for long-term care beds, some homes have space and it’s usually because no one wants to go. This could include homes with poor records of infection, death and care during the pandemic.

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There are even fewer choices when it comes to residences that offer care in French. There are approximately 15 long-term care homes in Eastern Ontario that are either designated under the French Language Services Act or identified as working at that designation, meaning services are available in French.

At Hôpital Montfort, patients’ first language of choice is documented during registration. This allows the hospital to provide care and services in their language and to inform decisions such as choice of accommodation after discharge from hospital, spokesperson Martin Sauvé said.

But Sauvé added that the coordination of long-term care planning is not solely in the hands of the hospital and that it is not clear whether Montfort will have a final decision on the placement of patients in care. long term under Bill 7.

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“The availability of French-language long-term care spaces remains limited across the province,” he said. “We are therefore concerned that Bill 7, if it does not take into account the linguistic characteristics of patients, could considerably reduce access to services in French,” he said.

A recent study by Ottawa researchers highlights the importance of people receiving health services in their native language.

“Forcing a resident into a home that may have linguistic and cultural mismatches can have health consequences,” said Dr. Peter Tanuseputro, physician-researcher at The Ottawa Hospital, the Institut du Sauveur Montfort and the Bruyère Research Institute. He co-led a recent study that found hospital patients are more likely to die or have serious consequences if their doctor doesn’t speak their language. He published a similar study looking at long-term care patients and said they are generally more vulnerable.

Sauvé pointed out that language makes a difference to the well-being of residents.

“While the proposed measures would make it possible to free up hospital beds, it is imperative that patients’ language be taken into account in the choice of accommodation to ensure the quality and safety of care, and that these patients can receive care in their language.

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