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Ontario advocates to fight LTC law infringing on seniors’ rights

Posted: November 22, 2022

(November 21, 2022)

By: Samantha Lawson, CHCH

Ontario advocates launched a constitutional challenge on Monday to a law they call an “unprecedented and egregious deprivation” of seniors’ rights and freedoms.

The law is Bill 7, titled ‘More Beds, Better Care Act (2022)’ and was passed by the Ford government in late August.

It says elderly patients can face penalties of $400 per day if they refuse to let a hospital transfer them to a long-term care home not of their choosing.

The Ontario Health Coalition & Advocacy Centre for the Elderly launched a constitutional challenge against the act, saying it is a direct affront to the fundamental right to give informed consent to medical treatment

“The purpose of the legislation and mandatory $400 fee is to intimidate and coerce older adults to leave hospital, to any destination, even those which are inappropriate,” said Jane Meadus, lawyer and institutional advocate at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

These hefty fines are part of Bill 7 which Meadus considers a breach of fundamental rights every Ontario citizen has to privacy over their health information.

The legislation allows southern Ontario hospital patients to be transferred to a temporary long-term care home as far as 70 kilometres away and patients in northern regions face a move of over 150 kilometres away while they await a bed in their preferred facility.

Since bringing this bill forward, the Ontario government has said that temporarily transitioning these patients into long-term care homes will free up high-demand hospital beds.

However, the legal position states that this will not fix the “large systemic problem” of hospital bed shortages and instead, will put seniors’ at great risk by transferring them to homes up to 150 kilometres away.

“While the move to a LTC facility not of their choosing is ostensibly to be temporary, the reality is that most ALC patients will die in the homes they are transferred to,” the legal position reads.

Since the bill specifically targets seniors who require long-term care, a vulnerable segment of the population who cannot live on their own, their position goes on to say that an effort to obtain consent to move is in fact “coerced consent” and therefore, not a real choice.

Based on these facts, the Ontario Health Coalition argues that Bill 7 “infringes the right of an ALC patient to equality” under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Their lawyers, alongside Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director Natalie Mehra, released the details of their constitutional challenge on Monday morning, saying that forcing patients into LTC homes puts their health and well-being at great risk.

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