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Call for LTC inquiry

Posted: April 6, 2021

(April 5, 2021)

By: Natali Trivuncic, Toronto Star

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) held a virtual conference to review wait times for long-term care in northwestern Ontario, hospital overcrowding and patient offloading and why a Human Rights Commission public inquiry is needed.

According to a press release, Kenora and northwestern Ontario have on average 13 people moving into long-term care per month. There are also 264 people on the waitlist for a long-term care bed with wait times ranging up to three years.

The OHC, OCHU, CUPE and ACE say in a letter to the Ontario Human Rights Commission that a human rights inquiry is long overdue.

Simran Prihar, a lawyer from Goldblatt Partners LLP said COVID-19 has made the existing inequity in access to health care for elderly Ontarians in particular more apparent, adding that poor conditions in long-term care have been endured for too long.

“The problem of age-related discrimination in the provision of health care will only continue to grow as Ontario’s population continues to age. The commission has an important role to play in illuminating and addressing this pervasive form of discrimination,” Prihar said.

Prihar said the commission’s expertise in relation to discrimination and equality rights coupled with the inquiry powers afforded to it under the code, make it ideally suited to carry out this inquiry.

While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on long-term care and hospitals was heavily brought up in the meeting, Natalie Mehra, executive director of OHC, said these issues have been going on for decades.

“Northwestern Ontario has been affected as overcrowding has been an issue in a number of hospitals and long-term care wait times are exuberant,” Mehra said.

Mehra said they have been advocating around these issues for 20 years and that a human rights inquiry has been in the making for a few years.

Jane Meadus, a staff lawyer and the Institutional Advocate at ACE, echoed Mehra, adding that these issues have been in the news, however, these are not new issues that are specific to COVID-19.

“Prior to the pandemic, these types of calls were also typical at our office when people were looking for long-term care homes,” Meadus said. “Emotions of fear and guilt are felt as there’s a lack of confidence in our long-term care home system. instead of being welcoming places, they’re perceived to be feared and their fears are not unfounded.”

Meadus said this inquiry is a last resort.

Prihar said through their letter, they hope to have provided a base level for the commission to inquire into what the groups are saying is systemic discrimination.

The group has not received a response from the commission and expect that it will take some time to hear back, Prihar said, adding that they are hoping the commission is going to look into the inquiry and use their powers to make recommendations.

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