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Human rights inquiry into senior care ‘long overdue’

Posted: March 21, 2021

(March 20, 2021)

By: Michael Lee, North Bay Nugget (Print Edition)

Health-care advocates are calling for a public inquiry into human rights discrimination against the elderly over access to care in hospitals and long-term care.

The push by the Ontario Health Coalition, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, which serves as the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly has been formalized in a 39-page letter to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, dated March 16.

Representatives also addressed the inquiry while speaking to local media Friday. They say years of systemic ageism in Ontario’s health-care system has contributed to nearly 4,000 long-term care residents dying from COVID-19 in the last year in the province.

Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra described a formal human rights inquiry as “long overdue.”

To date, there have been no longterm care deaths in North Bay Parry Sound District.

“There is responsibility to be borne at the facility level, no question,” she said. “But there’s also a systemic ageism in our health system that treats the elderly as though their lives are less meaningful and as though their right to care is lesser than other people, and that must be challenged, particularly in light of the horrors that we have witnessed in the last year.”

The groups say 20,000 hospital beds were cut over the last three decades by Ontario governments, including hundreds in North Bay, while the province’s population grew by 4.5 million.

They say the province rationing access to long-term care has resulted in a waitlist of more than 38,000, while wait times for longterm care homes in North Bay have reached up to 2,234 days or 6.1 years, with an average of 12 people move into long-term care each month and 598 people on a waitlist.

They add that North Bay Regional Health Centre routinely runs at 100 per cent capacity or higher. And across Ontario, more than 2,200 people deemed alternate level of care patients have been offloaded from hospitals into makeshift sites.

The groups also cite a study showing 22.4 per cent of longterm care residents who died with COVID-19 were hospitalized, compared to 81.4 per cent who lived in the community.

“We recoil from this discrimination in the provision of health-care services on the basis of age,” said “It shortens the lifespans of many productive and happy and beloved members of our society. Ageism, rationing and the infantilization of the elderly result in pain and suffering and neglect of health conditions that would be dealt with urgently in a younger person.”

Hurley said “this discrimination needlessly killed thousands in our direct care” during the pandemic in order to preserve hospital beds at intensive care units.

“And this discrimination will worsen as the elderly population grows at a rapid pace for decades.”

Adewonuola Johnson, issues and media relations officer for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, confirmed the groups’request for an investigation into senior care in Ontario has been received and is currently under review.

Krystle Caputo, press secretary to Ontario’s Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton, said in a statement that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed systemic issues facing long-term care after decades of neglect and underfunding by successive governments.

“The work to modernize longterm care is underway with immediate staffing investments culminating in $1.9 billion annually to meet our nation-leading four hours, on average, of daily direct resident care, and $2.6 billion invested to create modern and safe long-term care spaces,” Caputo said.

“We were the first government in North America to establish an independent commission – to provide a timely, transparent and non-partisan investigation into the pandemic in long-term care homes, and to receive advice on better protecting long-term care home residents. Our government is fixing a broken system and making long-term care a better place for residents to live, and a better place for staff to work.”

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