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2,400 elderly patients had rights violated in moves from Ontario hospitals, critics charge

Posted: November 22, 2022

(November 21, 2022)


Ontario Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra speaks with media at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Sept. 14, 2022.

Ontario Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra speaks with media at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Sept. 14, 2022.  CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV / THE CANADIAN PRESS

More than 2,400 elderly patients who no longer needed hospital care have been moved to nursing homes this fall, helping to clear beds for the cold weather surge of respiratory viruses, Ontario’s Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra says.

The figure was released Monday as critics took fresh aim at Bill 7, a controversial law passed in September that includes fees of $400 a day for anyone refusing to leave hospital once cleared for discharge.

“If a senior refuses to go to one of these homes, the premier (Doug Ford) has threatened to financially ruin them,” New Democrat MPP and long-term care critic Wayne Gates (Niagara) said as his party, the Ontario Health Coalition and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly pressed the government to scrap the bill.

They said it violates the charter rights of the elderly with “coercive” charges and breaches provisions against age discrimination, setting the stage for a charter challenge of the legislation by the coalition and the advocacy centre.

“The burden of this policy … is now being borne by the frail elderly. That is not acceptable,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

While hospitals have had the power to levy the $400 charge since Sunday, “to the best of my knowledge, nobody’s been fined,” Calandra told reporters later.

“Bill 7 has allowed us to get people into (nursing) homes quicker,” he added. “I’ve very pleased with the progress that we’ve seen.”

Officially called the “More Beds, Better Care Act,” it allows hospitals to transfer elderly patients to nursing homes not of their choosing — providing they have been approved for discharge and consent to the move.

But the threat of a $400 daily fee for staying in hospital is a “bludgeon … to coerce their consent,” said Ben Piper, a lawyer for Goldblatt Partners LLP, a law firm preparing a charter challenge of Bill 7 on behalf of the Ontario Health Coalition and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly. It’s expected to be filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice later this month.

Both groups warn that elderly couples could be separated by the legislation under provisions that allow hospital patients to be moved to nursing homes as far as 70 km away in southern Ontario and 150 km in the north — or further if no long-term care beds are free within that range. That could make it difficult or impossible for spouses and families to visit.

As well, frail elderly patients could be moved into nursing homes in the midst of COVID-19 outbreaks or into homes that had high levels of illness and death during the pandemic, Mehra said.

“There’s no level on which this is right,” she told a news conference, noting the average length of life for someone moving into a nursing home is 18 months.

The bill, which was tabled in August and passed within a couple of weeks without being sent to a legislative committee of MPPs for further study, was aimed at “alternative level of care” patients in hospital — those no longer in need of acute care but on waiting lists for nursing home or rehabilitation beds or home care.

Also called “bed blockers” in health industry jargon, the alternate level of care patients have long been a problem in hospitals.

The government said the number of alternative level of care patients is now down by almost 20 per cent.

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