How effective is the Ontario law that allows fines for patients who refuse pre-arranged LTC beds?
Posted: November 22, 2022
(November 21, 2022)
By: Isaac Callan and Colin D’Mello, GlobalNews.ca
WATCH ABOVE: The Ford government’s bill to free up hospital beds by moving patients to long-term care homes is facing a constitutional challenge. Colin D’Mello reports.
As a health-care advocacy group prepares to take the Ford government to court over a provincial law designed to free-up hospital beds, the effectiveness of that law remains unclear.
The legislation — titled Bill 7: More Beds Better Care Act — gave alternative level of care (ALC) patients in Ontario hospitals a choice: move to a long-term care home picked by the province — or face a daily fine of $400.
The bill received royal assent and became law at the end of August, and hospitals were allowed to begin charging fines as of Nov. 20.
The Ontario Health Coalition and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly are preparing a charter challenge against the legislation.
How effective the bill is — and how much it will be used — remains unknow.
Ontario’s minister of long-term care claimed up to 1,500 beds had become available in response to a question on Monday about how many people had been moved as a result of the new law.
Speaking in the legislature earlier the same day, Paul Calandra also said that “over 330 ALC patients have chosen to go to long-term care beds in the province of Ontario” last week.
Health minister Sylvia Jones said she had been told, anecdotally, that beds were becoming available.
“I am hearing from hospital CEOs who are saying on the ground in the hospital they have seen alternative level of care beds open up,” Jones said.
However, several GTA hospitals approached by Global News said they were unlikely to use the powers to fine or move patients created by Bill 7, though many did express general support for the legislation.
Trillium Health Partners, which runs health care in Mississauga and Etobicoke, said no patients were transferred “as a direct result” of the legislation.
“We fully support Bill 7 as an important tool to ensure patients are receiving the right care, in the right place,” a spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Toronto’s Sinai Health System said the hospital network had “not transitioned any patients to long-term care under the Act.”
The spokesperson said no one would currently qualify to be fined $400, adding “all patients who have moved to long-term care have done so through the long-term care placement process with consent.”
Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre said its “main issue with ALC patients isn’t necessarily long-term care but rather other destinations such as rehab.”
Bill 7 allows hospitals or discharge planners to override patient consent to secure a bed as far as 70 kilometres away in southern Ontario and 150 kilometres away in northern regions.
The Ontario Health Coalition is preparing a charter challenge to the bill, which its executive director describes as “fundamentally discriminatory” against the frail and elderly.
“We’re talking about pushing people out of hospitals to die. I mean, let’s get real,” Natalie Mehra said.
“It’s targeting the frail elderly. We believe it’s fundamentally discriminatory and ageist and there are other solutions. It’s just that the government will not do that.”
— with files from The Canadian Press