Flawed Bill 7 is not the right answer
Posted: September 11, 2022
(September 10, 2022)
By: Spectator Editorial, Hamilton Spectator
Leaders at Hamilton and Burlington health-care systems are making a difficult choice in an effort to strike a near impossible balance.
As reported by Spectator health journalist Joanna Frketich, decision-makers at Hamilton Health Sciences, St. Joseph’s Health Care and Burlington’s Joseph Brant Hospital are not yet using new powers given them by Bill 7, the controversial new law that allows hospitals to force seniors to move into a long-term care facility not of their choice.
Bill 7, rammed through the legislature with no public consultation or debate, is an attempt to deal with a real problem, but the legislation is flawed and vague.
As St. Joseph’s said in a statement in response to Spectator questions: “There are a lot of details in Bill 7 that we need to understand and process. We are not making any decisions today that will affect a person’s care at St. Joe’s. We are reviewing the bill carefully to understand the implications for our patients and the health care system.”
That position is shared by Jo Brant and HHS, and it is the right and responsible choice at this point. The problem of Alternative Level of Care patients remaining in acute care beds when acute care is no longer prescribed is pressing. St. Joseph’s has 18 per cent of its beds taken up by ALC patients. HHS has nearly 250 patients receiving ALC, and nearly a quarter of them are waiting long-term care.
ERs are backlogged, with patients waiting hours or even days to get a bed. Surgical procedures are being delayed due to a critical shortage of acute care beds.
So how can it be right to not act on Bill 7? It would allow a hospital to discharge ALC patients to long-term care, but not necessarily in the patient’s home community, and not necessarily in LTC up to the standards of patients and their families.
In short, hospital leaders are caught between a rock and a very hard place. If they act now, acute care beds could be freed up sooner, but at the potential expense of trauma and hardship to the discharged ALC patients and their families. If they don’t act, the existing problem will be prolonged, and may get a lot worse if the seventh wave of COVID gets a lot worse in the fall, as many experts expect.
A growing number of experts and organizations are speaking out against Bill 7. Ontario Nurses’ Association President Cathryn Hoy put it this way in a statement late last month: “Bill 7 does nothing to address the root causes of our hospital crisis in Ontario. Even more concerning, Bill 7 threatens patients’ basic rights to freedom of choice and
could result in vulnerable seniors being moved far from family and supports they rely on.”
Consider, too, the concerns expressed in an op-ed today by 15 geriatric care experts from McMaster University. The Ontario Health Coalition, the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly and the Canadian Union of Public Employees are calling for an Ontario Human Rights Commission public inquiry.
There is a growing evidence-based body of opinion that argues Bill 7 is not the answer to the long-standing ALC problem. Had the government taken time to listen to these concerns ahead of Bill 7 becoming law, some or all could have been addressed. But they chose not to, and this is the result. Do don’t blame hospital leaders for this, blame the Ford government.
Can we give Charles a chance?
Talk about a tough act to follow. If King Charles III was the most engaging and charismatic leader on the planet, he would probably still fall short when compared to his late, most beloved, mother, Queen Elizabeth.
He is not those things. Neither is anyone else. The late Queen was possessed of a unique set of skills and personality that meshed perfectly, and over her 70-year reign, allowed her to become the almost perfect monarch in times of turbulence and of calm.
We are not suggesting anyone throw a pity party for the new King. But maybe more of us should hold back on the premature predictions of his failing to measure up, of doing a disservice to his mother’s legacy. Maybe we should just give Charles a chance?
Writing in the Toronto Star, John Fraser, author of the Secret of the Crown, argues if we do that, we may be surprised at what a good ruler Charles might be.
Consider some of the causes Charles fought for as Prince of Wales. He has been outspoken about respect for Indigenous voices and wisdom. He was an early adopter on the dangers of climate change and pollution, and was actually mocked for those positions, Fraser writes. No one is mocking him on those fronts now.
Lest anyone think his devotion to his causes is superficial, he grows Indigenous tobacco on his properties so he can make appropriate gifts to Indigenous leaders who sometimes visit and consult him.
And his mettle? Fraser suggests people check out Google to see the 1994 incident in which an Australian fired a starter pistol at Charles. They were blanks, but no one knew that then. And check out Charles giving his speech anyway, with self-deprecating introduction. Knocked off balance by a flying security guard he may have been, but his recovery was calm and quick.
In closing, some words from Charles in his Prince of Wales days: “As human beings, we suffer from an innate tendency to jump to conclusions, to judge people too quickly and to pronounce them failures or heroes without due consideration of the actual facts and ideals of the period.” We’re quite certain his mother would agree, and we should, too.