Health care advocates say they are preparing a possible constitutional challenge to an Ontario law that allows some elderly patients released from hospital to be forced into a nursing home of their choice.
Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, describes the More Beds Better Care Act as “fundamentally discriminatory” against the frail and elderly.
Bill 7 passed in late August and went into effect on September 21, but the full scope of the law was only realized on Sunday when one of its most controversial components took effect. Ontario hospitals are now required to collect a mandatory fee of $400 per day for discharged patients who refuse to go to a long-term care home organized on their behalf.
Mehra says there is currently no way to appeal if patients are forced to go somewhere they don’t want to go.
“We are going to take it to court and ask them to remove it,” says Mehra.
She says details of the planned legal fight will be revealed at a joint press conference on Monday co-hosted by the Advocacy Center for the Elderly.
The province has said the law is meant to help ease pressures on hospitals that have been overwhelmed by emergency visits and a backlog of surgeries.
The rules apply to hospital patients deemed by doctors to need an “alternative level of care” who have been placed on a waiting list to enter a long-term care home. The province said there are about 1,800 such patients across the province.
Mehra says there are 38,000 people on the waiting list for long-term care.
She says Bill 7 allows hospitals or discharge planners to revoke a patient’s consent to secure a bed up to 70 kilometers away in southern Ontario and 150 kilometers away in the northern regions. If beds are not available, Mehra says the law allows northern residents to be sent even farther.
“The only long-term care homes that would have beds available are the ones that have a terrible reputation for care or are too far away,” she says.
“We looked at the wait list across Ontario to see which long-term care homes have the lowest wait list and those will be the places. They include homes that were entered by the military during the (COVID-19) pandemic and found just horrible conditions.”
Mehra says the law also prioritizes hospitalized people waiting for beds, effectively eliminating everyone else staying at home while waiting for long-term care.
If people end up getting sick from it, they would end up in the hospital and then be released to a long-term care facility they don’t want, she says.
“We’re talking about getting people out of hospitals to die. I mean, let’s be real,” she says.
“It is aimed at the frail elderly. We believe that it is fundamentally discriminatory and age discriminatory and that there are other solutions. It’s just that the government won’t do that.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 20, 2022.