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Ford government passes motion to skip public hearings on long-term care legislation

Posted: August 30, 2022

(August 29, 2022)

By: The Canadian Press

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government passed a motion Monday to skip public hearings for legislation that would allow hospital patients awaiting long-term care to be transferred to a home without their consent.

Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra has said the legislation will free up badly needed acute care beds in hospitals. According to the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), there were 5,930 “alternate level of care” patients — those deemed to no longer be in need of acute care — in hospital as of Aug. 17, of which 40 per cent were waiting for a space in long-term care.

While the text of the bill says hospitals must make a “reasonable effort” to obtain consent from patients, it would in theory allow patients to be moved to a temporary long-term care home without their consent while they await a bed in their preferred facility.

The government moved a motion last week that would advance the bill directly to third reading, which means it will not be considered by committee or be subject to public hearings at that stage.

The legislation does not allow patients to be physically moved to a long-term care home, but it remains unclear what would happen if a patient refused a transfer. In some cases currently, if a patient declines to be moved to a long-term care facility of their choice, a hospital can formally discharge them and charge them a daily uninsured rate. That can be $1,500 or more per day.

The NDP alleges the government is “silencing” opposition by skipping public input on the controversial legislation. Wayne Gates, NDP MPP and critic for long-term care, retirement homes and home care, held what the party billed as an “emergency hearing” on Monday morning.

The session heard from health-care workers, advocates and union members, with many of the speakers calling for Bill 7, called the More Beds, Better Care Act, to be withdrawn. 

“We just can’t support this legislation,” said Jane Meadus, staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly often provides feedback on health-care related legislation during the committee phase. But in the case of Bill 7, the government has opted not to schedule any committee hearings and has already moved a motion to advance the bill directly to a third reading, the final stage before MPPs vote on it.

“There is nothing in this act that does what it says it is supposed to,” Meadus said.

Other speakers said the legislation would unfairly target sick, old and vulnerable people, as well as disabled persons. 

“Now the competition for too few resources is being taken out once again on the backs of the elderly, the most frail, the vulnerable,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director Ontario Health Coalition.

“In the end it will be the people who cannot speak for themselves who will be pushed to places far away that are inappropriate, that are not of their choosing, without any kind of support system for them.”

Both the NDP and Liberals have alleged that the regulations supporting the legislation would allow for patients in Northern Ontario to be moved up to 300 km from their homes. Meanwhile, patients in most of southern Ontario could be moved up to 100 km away and those in cities up to 30 km from their homes. 

Calandra and the Ministry of Long-term Care, however, say conversations with stakeholders about specific regulations are ongoing and that they would be presented to the legislature within a week of Bill 7 receiving Royal Assent.

“The situation in our hospitals and acute care demands action,” said Jake Roseman, spokesperson for the ministry, in an email.

“The Minister has committed to consulting with stakeholders, including LTC homes, LTC home and resident and family council associations, and health system planning and service delivery agencies.”

Ahead of the NDP’s event Monday, the government also sent out a news release to media highlighting instances when the party’s MPPs have voiced concerns about patients awaiting long-term care placements staying in hospitals for prolonged periods.

“The NDP have always played politics when it comes to health care in Ontario. But now it’s clear they are ​also hypocrites that say no for the sake of saying no,” the release said.

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