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Ontario groups call for inquiry into ‘systemic discrimination’ against seniors

Posted: March 19, 2021

(March 18, 2021)


OHC executive director Natalie Mehra noted that out of 297 COVID-19 deaths in Hamilton, 143 were long-term-care residents. At Grace Villa 44 of its 156 residents died between Nov. 25 and Jan. 20 during the city’s worst COVID outbreak.

Ontario advocacy groups and unions are demanding a formal inquiry into older residents being denied adequate access to health care — which they say has only worsened in the pandemic.

In a campaign launched Tuesday, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) are asking the Ontario Human Rights Commission to investigate “systemic discrimination” that saw seniors denied hospital care and adequate long-term care especially in the pandemic. They’re also urging the province to “take immediate action.”

“There is … a systemic ageism in our health-care system that treats the elderly as though their lives have less meaning,” said OHC executive director Natalie Mehra in a news conference for Hamilton and Niagara on Thursday.

In November, a University of Toronto and Public Health Ontario study — still awaiting peer review — found only about 20 per cent of COVID-19 patients in Ontario long-term-care homes were admitted to hospital before they died. Mehra noted that out of 297 COVID-19 deaths in Hamilton, 143 were long-term-care residents.

“In the pandemic … we saw, to our horror, the worst mass casualty event in our province’s long-term care history,” said Mehra. “Many of those deaths were avoidable.”

She also pointed to a “long-standing problem” of overcrowded hospitals, which is “more extreme” in Hamilton and Niagara than other parts of the province. Mehra said this led hospitals to discharge older patients awaiting long-term care early in the pandemic to “make way for patients that were deemed to be more important.”

Wait lists for long-term care in Hamilton have reached up to 768 days, she added.

Jane Meadus, a staff lawyer at ACE, said “common complaints” of poor care in senior homes — including residents left in soiled diapers, not taken to the washroom on time, and not getting regular baths — only worsened during the pandemic.

“If this was a daycare (and) these were children, these facilities would be shut down in a heartbeat,” she said.

The groups are asking people to support their calls by writing to the Human Rights Commission, premier, and their local MPPs.

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