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LETTER: Ontario’s Bill 7 ‘smacks of ageism’

Posted: September 7, 2022

(September 6, 2022)

By: Marie DellaVedova in the Sault Star

Facing a long-foreseen crisis in Ontario’s hospital care, the Ford government has recently announced a plan which it says will free up much-needed beds in hospitals across the province.

Bill 7, the ‘More Beds, Better Care Act,’ will allow the forcing of elderly patients into long term care facilities not of their choosing. This legislation will have implications and consequences well beyond what most Ontarians, particularly seniors, consider acceptable for themselves or their loved ones.

Dr. Samir Sinha is the director of Geriatrics at Sinai Hospital and University Health Network. He is also the director of Health Policy Research at the National institute on Ageing.

According to Dr. Sinha, “This really can hasten people’s demise when you send them to a place they don’t want to be. It may not be a place that can meet their needs.”

This new long-term care plan will allow patients to be sent far from their home and their loved ones. These loved ones often include substitute decision makers who have power of authority. Being close to the long-term care resident is important for monitoring a resident’s well-being. Due to the long distances between communities, patients in northern Ontario especially risk being sent hundreds of kilometres from home.

Jane E. Meadus is a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly who fights for the rights of those in long-term care homes, hospitals, and psychiatric facilities. She joins many seniors and long-term care advocates who are outraged at the government’s announcement that disrespects the needs of patients.

“What this also does is take away the fundamental cornerstone of consent, which is built into our legislation, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, that certain things require consent, especially in the medical context, and this is no different,” she said. “This is a breach of fundamental justice and fundamental rights of people, specifically the elderly and people who are disabled.”

Meadus said the only appeal process mentioned in the bill is if a patient is deemed ineligible for long-term care. “There’s no way to appeal if you are being forced into a home that you don’t want to go to.”

The long-term care system, like the hospital sector in Ontario, is in crisis. Staffing levels are unsafe and well below acceptable levels. Multiple long-term care homes in Ontario are still without air conditioning. Many are presently in COVID outbreak. Many homes are the same long-term care homes, under private for-profit ownership, where thousands of long-term care residents died of neglect over the last few years. None of them were ever fined. None of them lost their license.

Surely no one should be forced to take up residence in any of these homes. While the government promises that this legislation will allow hospital patients awaiting a bed to be transferred to a “temporary” home while they await space in their preferred home, temporary is not defined.  It could mean days, weeks, months, years. And in all likelihood, people at this stage in life could die alone and far from their families.

Legislation that deprives a senior of informed consent to health care smacks of ageism. Sacrificing the vulnerable once again is a cruel and ineffective way to solve a health care crisis. This is a crisis whose growth has been documented over many years while successive governments have failed miserably to address it. It has not been caused by our hospitals’ ALC patients and their rights and well-being should not be sacrificed in a futile attempt to solve it. The right to health care does not diminish with age.  And putting pressure on one part of the health care sector already in crisis in order to help another will not work either.

Surely, we can do better by the generation that built our society.

The Ontario government decided to forego the usual legislative process of sending the bill to public hearings, in effect denying the public the opportunity to examine the bill, ask questions and provide input.

In Ontario, frail seniors and the disabled are being treated like criminals, in that they have lost the right to choose where to live and receive medical care. And it is according to government plan.

Marie DellaVedova

Political advocacy representative ,

District 3 Algoma, RTOERO

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