Furious at ‘grotesque’ ageism and human rights abuses, advocates react to Ford government’s planned regulations to kick elderly patients out of hospital
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TORONTO, Sept. 15, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Ford government today released its regulations under the understated More Beds, Better Care Act (formerly Bill 7). The regulations are the details of the legislation to provide new powers to push elderly patients and people with chronic care needs out of hospitals, nullifying their right to consent. The hammer the government intends to use to force patients out of hospital is a charge of $400 a day, or $2,800 a week. According to the minister’s statement yesterday, hospitals will be « obligatory» charge patients waiting for not only long-term care, but also home and community care, exorbitant fees. Patients can be sent up to 70 km from the hospital in southern Ontario. In the North, the limit is 150km, however, if there are no beds available within 150km, they will be allowed to move patients farther than that*, according to government documents. Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director Natalie Mehra expressed complete outrage at the plans during a press conference today, which was livestreamed and available here: https://www.facebook.com/ontariohealth/videos/1262453651238649
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- Ontario has the fewest hospital beds to the left of any province in Canada. Ontario hospital downsizing is not “normal”. It’s extreme, in fact the most extreme in the country. Today, patients – and especially the frail elderly and those in need of chronic care – are treated as if they are misusing resources. It’s ageist and immoral. These patients have the same human rights as all patients. They do not « take » resources, they need care. They have nowhere to go, not of their choice, but as a result of political choices, pursued by the Ford government, not to rebuild our public hospital capacity.
- Hospitals are not just “acute care” facilities. They have always provided a range of care, including chronic care (complex continuing care), palliative care, rehabilitation beds and more. These services are equally important to acute care and it is not in the public interest to allow them to be cut and systematically reduced.
- Ontario has funded its hospitals at the lowest rate in Canada for years in an effort to force downsizing. (Virtually all the services cut from public hospitals are privatized.) Here is the funding of hospitals by the provinces as a proportion of the GDP and per person. The Ford government continued this when it took office. Nothing has been done to restore hospital capacity to anything approaching reason.
- There is a personnel crisis, commensurate with the hospital personnel crisis, in long term care and in Home Care, where such patients are likely to be forced. Despite repeated requests – with concrete recommendations – to get the Ford government to take real action on the personnel crisis, the government downplayed the situation, refusing to call it a crisis, tried to distract, and ultimately staged numerous public relations announcements with very little real action. There are a significant number of steps the government could take to deal with the crisis, but it has chosen not to spend the money and is now, instead, violating the rights of mostly elderly patients to deal with the crisis they are still not dealing with.
- Not all so-called Alternate Levels of Care (ALCs) are waiting for long-term care. In fact, the minority of ALC patients are waiting for long-term care. A significant block of NSA patients are waiting for hospital beds – complex continuing care (chronic care), rehabilitation, mental health beds and others. A small number are waiting for home care. (Most patients awaiting home care are sent home, where that care may or may not occur.)
- Hospitals also provide long-term care beds and have done so for decades. There are a significant number of closed hospitals and closed hospital beds across the province that still exist and could be opened if funded and staffed. In fact, last year, public hospitals built four accelerated long-term care facilities on hospital grounds. The choice not to solve the problems by expanding services is a political choice – not a necessity – and reflects the values and priorities of the government and those who lobbied behind the scenes to create the new law and its regulations. These values and priorities do not align with the values and priorities of the majority of Ontarians.
- Any assertion that cultural needs, etc. will be taken into account is nonsense. Generally, cultural centers have wait longer than those who do not offer these services. Patients will be forced to go to the only available beds, which are those that are far away or that people don’t want to go to, often for good reasons.
- The assertion that forced removals are temporary and that patients will find their way to an LTC home of their choice is also extremely manipulative. Hospital crisis admissions always have priority. The forced move is most likely the last move in the patient’s life.
- Across Canada and abroad, we have just seen the devastating effects of the isolation of families and loved ones for residents in long-term care during the pandemic. Countless elderly residents failed; they have lost their health status permanently; they suffered greatly from depression, loneliness, despair and inadequate care, and many died. This is, we fear, the consequence of this policy for the hundreds, if not thousands, of elderly people who will be subjected to this heinous coercion.
* The specific language used by the government in its Field Orientation for Home and Community Support Services Placement Coordinators is:
“However, if in those areas there are no suitable LTC homes within the applicable radius, or if there are extremely limited vacancies in available homes within the geographic boundary, the nearest home(s) of the patient’s preferred location can be chosen. » [I.e. Beyond the 150 km radius.]
For more information: Natalie Mehra, Executive Director (416) 230-6402.