‘I feel like I am non-existent:’ Ottawa woman is pressured to take a LTC room she didn’t want under threat of Bill 7
Posted: September 2, 2022
(September 1, 2022)
By: Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen
An Ottawa woman and her family say she was coerced to accept a room in a long-term care home she doesn’t want to live in under the threat that she could be charged up to $1,800 a day for refusing to move once the province’s Bill 7 was passed.
The woman, 62-year-old Deana Henry, reluctantly agreed to move into the room at the privately operated Extendicare West End Villa last week although it was not among her choices. She had been previously living there until her room was taken over by The Ottawa Hospital which has assumed management of two floors. Henry was increasingly unhappy with care at the home and had a list of homes she wanted to move to but was told to accept the room offered at West End Villa.
On Thursday, the former Nortel employee who speaks with difficulty, uses a mechanical wheelchair, is otherwise bedridden and has complex health issues including multiple sclerosis, said she is not happy where she is and feels like her wishes do not matter.
“I am a smart, intelligent person and now I feel like I am non-existent,” Henry said.
An advocate who works with Henry said her case should serve as a warning to others.
“Already peoples’ rights were trampled on here. This was an issue even before Bill 7 was passed,” said advocate Mary Sinclair.
The Ontario government’s controversial Bill 7, called the More Beds, Better Care Act was passed Wednesday without public hearings. Critics say it violates the rights of the elderly and disabled by removing choice about where they live.
Under the bill, patients waiting for long-term care who are in hospital beds can be sent to a long-term care home that is not of their choosing. The move is an effort to free up desperately needed space in hospitals, say government officials, and get patients into more suitable care. Critics say the homes they will be moved to are the ones that people don’t want to go to because they have poor records.
Sinclair said Henry has been treated “like a piece of furniture” and moved three times in recent months within West End Villa.
Hospitals are able to charge so-called ALC (alternate level of care) patients who refuse an offer of a long-term care home a per diem for staying in a hospital bed. Bill 7 lays the groundwork for more patients to potentially be charged because they can be sent to homes they don’t want to live in without their consent. It remains unclear how much they might be charged.
But Henry’s daughter and Sinclair say she was pressured to accept the room at West End Villa by an employee of the local health agency that places residents in long-term care homes with the threat of being charged $1,800 a day once Bill 7 was passed.
“It is a bed. You had better take it or you will end up after Bill 7 where you have refused and be liable for up to $1,800 a day,” Sinclair says she was told last week.
A spokesperson for Home and Community Care Support Services, which co-ordinates placement in long-term care homes, said the organization could not comment on individual cases for privacy reasons.
In the Ontario Legislature Thursday, Ottawa West Nepean NDP MPP Chandra Pasma raised Henry’s case.
“Why is the premier insisting that no one will be coerced against their will when it’s already happening to patients like Deana?” Pasma asked. “Deana may be bed-bound, but she has a right to choose where to live, the same right that we all have.”
Sinclair describes Henry’s situation as a “roller-coaster” since last May.
Henry had been living at West End Villa on the fourth floor and was increasingly unhappy with the level of care she was receiving there. It could take an hour for resident’s call bells for help to get answered, among other things. When she was told The Ottawa Hospital was taking over management of the fourth floor, as it had earlier with the home’s fifth floor, she was also told that she would get priority placement to move into a room in another Extendicare facility in Ottawa.
That didn’t happen, says her family. While she was temporarily cared for by Ottawa Hospital staff on a floor they managed, she made a list of other long-term care homes she would prefer to live in — her top choice was a city-run not-for-profit home — and was told she would have priority to move there.
Instead, her daughter says the family learned that information was not correct and that she was being offered another room inside West End Villa. That was her only option.
“It has been horrible,” Henry said.
Sinclair said Henry fears living in a home that increasingly is not able to meet her needs. The care she received on the floor managed by The Ottawa Hospital was much better, she said, and Henry thrived there.
When it comes to the changes driven by the partnership with The Ottawa Hospital specifically, a spokesperson for Extendicare said in a statement that it “prioritized direct engagement with residents and families to provide updates and work together on any concerns.
“No resident was moved to a different room without their consent, and any costs for transitioning to their new room were covered by Extendicare,” the spokesperson said. “We made every effort to ensure no one felt pressured to move, and delayed opening the additional floor by a couple months to ensure that every resident who moved was able to be satisfied.”
Meanwhile, in the Ontario Legislature Thursday, Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said patients’ rights will be respected under Bill 7. He added that moving people out of hospital beds is part of modernizing the health system.
“It is not a good quality of care when a person is sitting in a hospital bed.”
This week, the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, the Ontario Health Coalition and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions called for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to investigate what they say is systemic discrimination based on age in the bill.
In Ottawa, there are 221 ALC patients at The Ottawa Hospital, 67 of whom are approved to wait for long-term care, 100 ALC patients at Queensway Carleton Hospital, 33 of whom are waiting for long-term care beds, and 59 ALC patients at Montfort Hospital, 23 of whom are waiting for a long-term care bed.