Residential school survivor fears being institutionalized away from home under Ontario’s new rules for LTC

A residential school survivor in northwestern Ontario says he fears changes to provincial legislation could send him far from home for medical treatment.

Garnet Angeconeb lives with Kennedy’s disease, a rare neuromuscular disease that causes progressive weakening of muscles, and is on the waiting list for long-term care at Sioux Lookout, where he is a patient of Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre.

Sioux Lookout is approximately 400 kilometers northwest of Thunder Bay.

« I feel close to home here, and it’s where I want to be, where my family and my grandchildren are, » he said. « But with this legislation, I don’t know. I might have to move, which I really, really don’t want. »

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government used its majority last month to pass controversial Bill 7, a law that could temporarily force hospital patients awaiting long-term care to attend nursing homes that they didn’t choose.

The government has been criticized for the vague wording of the legislation and for choosing not to send the bill to committee, meaning no public comment was taken before it was passed. None of the opposition parties supported the bill.

Although the changes do not allow a patient to be physically transferred against their will, critics have warned that patients who refuse to move could be charged for their subsequent stay in hospital.

Angeconeb wrote to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Health and Long-Term Care to protest.

« This is cruel legislation for the alternate level of care patients I see every day here, » he wrote in the letter.

« Having been ‘institutionalized’ as a child through the residential school system, it seems that I have gone through a vicious circle, » he wrote in the letter. « As a child, I was separated from my parents, my relatives and my community. And now, with this law, I could be separated from my family, my children, my grandchildren and my community – the loop is closed. »

Government promises to accommodate Indigenous preference

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Long-Term Care told CBC News that Home and Community Support Services (HCCSS) placement coordinators consider a wide variety of criteria when deciding where to place people with need care.

« This means that an Aboriginal patient’s religious, linguistic and cultural preferences will be taken into account, as well as proximity to loved ones, » said Jake Roseman.

The government, he added, is spending $6.4 billion to build 30,000 new long-term care beds and 28,000 upgraded beds.

“These beds will add capacity to areas of the province where demand is high, meet the growing needs of diverse groups, including Indigenous communities, and promote care campuses to better meet the specialized needs of residents,” did he declare.

Ontario’s Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra sits in the Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park in November 2021. His party used his majority to pass controversial Bill 7, which could see some patients transferred from hospitals to long-term care homes that they would not have chosen. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

When it comes to caring for those who can’t care for themselves, what works in southern Ontario doesn’t necessarily work in northern Ontario, Angeconeb said.

While southern communities are close to each other, northerners already have to fly in from remote communities for treatment.

« If they’re asked to move to another long-term care facility outside of Sioux Lookout, that’s added pressure. It’s added stress for them, » he said.

Angeconeb never felt compelled to leave the hospital, he said. But he worries about what will happen now under the new legislation.

He’s asking the province to meet with patients like him to discuss solutions that work in northern Ontario.

« I think I could live at home if I had additional services here where I live, » he said. « But it’s also very limited. »

New Democrat MP for Kiiwetinoong Sol Mamakwa on Tuesday called on the government to drop plans to send seniors to long-term care homes where they don’t want to go without their consent.

In a press release, Mamakwa said the government was wrong to put elders in a position where they must relive the trauma of forced institutionalization if they are moved without their full consent.

NDP MP Sol Mamakwa speaks at Queen’s Park during Question Period in March 2022. He says the government’s Bill 7 echoes the residential school system. (Legislative Assembly of Ontario)

Although the province has promised to bolster Ontario’s stock of long-term care beds, Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance said the community is still waiting for the beds promised in 2018.

Original plans for the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Center, which was built in 2010, called for the facility to have 96 long-term care beds. These plans have been scaled down to its current 20 beds to reduce costs.

Since then, the municipality has been advocating for additional beds, he added.

Lawrance said there has been no progress in delivering the beds four years after they were announced. He recently raised the issue with Paul Calandra, the province’s long-term care minister, at a meeting in Ottawa last month.

« We… came away with nothing, » he said.

Meanwhile, about 27 of the 55 acute care beds at Meno Ya Win Health Center are occupied by alternate level of care patients, and the waiting list for local long-term care beds is about two. at four years old, he said.

Lawrance estimated that about 85% of patients at the hospital are Indigenous.

The chief of Lac Seul First Nation – Angeconeb’s home community – said he hoped the government would take care of the new beds soon.

Lac Seul First Nation Chief Clifford Bull said he was concerned about elders like his mother, who felt alone away from home while waiting for long-term care. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

Chief Clifford Bull said he was ready to speak with any potential partners in the interest of doing so.

Bull’s mother was treated at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Center until her death, he said.

« I know it’s a place where she felt very lonely, and I couldn’t imagine how other people would feel, especially from the north, if they went to Fort Frances and Thunder Bay and had to go to those distant places, » said Taurus.

« It is very difficult for people to travel with COVID-19, and especially with gas prices being so high and the cost of living, it can be very difficult for families to meet their distant loved ones. »

Bull considered submitting a proposal for long-term care beds on behalf of the First Nations or partnering with Sioux Lookout, he said.

He also plans to reinstate the four-party agreement that led to the creation of the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre.

« I think if we put our heads together and come together as partners, [Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority]Meno Ya Win, First Nations, Chiefs and communities and if we work together, much like what we did with Meno Ya Win Hospital, great things can be achieved, he said.


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