Nearly 300 Ontario Patients Moved to Long-Term Care Homes They Didn’t Choose

Nearly 300 people in Ontario have been moved from hospitals to long-term care homes they did not choose under a law the government implemented more than a year ago.

The law can allow patients to be admitted to homes up to 70 kilometers away (or 150 kilometers if in northern Ontario) without their consent and requires hospitals to charge them $400 a day if they refuse transfer.

Their goal is to move so-called alternative level of care patients (who may be discharged from the hospital but need a long-term care bed and don’t yet have one) to free up hospital space.

If there are no places available in the long-term care residences that a patient has placed on their preferred list, they may be transferred to a residence selected by a placement coordinator at the hospital.

The Ministry of Long-Term Care has not publicly disclosed the number of patients transferred under those new rules, but Long-Term Care Minister Stan Cho’s office now confirms to The Canadian Press that 293 alternative level of care patients were admitted to homes where we will not We will not choose between September 2022 and January of this year.

That represents about 1.7 percent of all alternative level of care patients discharged from public hospitals to long-term care homes in that period, Cho’s office said.

Cho said he wants people to be able to age comfortably in long-term care homes, not in hospital beds.

“We need to get people who are in long-term care home out of the hospitals and into their homes and what that does is free up the hospitals for that acute care,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

“Let’s have the right care for the right place, for the right person.”

Cho said he has not been aware of any fines imposed under the law.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the threat of a $400-a-day fine is enough for most people to accept.

“Frankly, they would be afraid,” he said. “Running these types of programs based on fear is a terrible option and would always result in people being forced to leave their communities.”

Seniors are dismayed by the effect the legislation has had, said Patricia Spindel, co-founder of Seniors for Social Action Ontario.

“Hundreds of people are now subject to this discriminatory, cruel and dehumanizing legislation that has deprived them of their basic rights – and they are vulnerable people – to choose where they want to live,” he said. “That is a violation of human rights.”

The legislation has had a chilling effect on seniors, he said, and many members of his organization say they are afraid to go to a hospital for fear of never coming home and being sent to a nursing home they don’t want to go to. . .

In a survey of more than 1,000 people aged 55 and older commissioned by Home Care Ontario, 91 per cent said they would prefer to stay home if additional supports were available. Those numbers mirror previous surveys by the National Institute on Aging, where the vast majority of respondents ages 65 and older preferred home care over long-term care.

Forcing nearly 300 seniors into nursing homes they did not choose is a “very significant deprivation of liberty,” said Graham Webb, executive director of the Seniors Advocacy Center.

“People who have actually been moved without legal consent are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

The advocacy center has several clients who have been forced into nursing homes under the new law, Webb said.

“We are hearing that this is a very worrying and oppressive measure that occurs when families are least able to cope,” he said.

Her organization, along with the Ontario Health Coalition, have taken the province to court over the issue, challenging the constitutionality of the law. They say the More Beds, Better Care law, also known as Bill 7, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly the rights of older patients.

The matter will be heard in the fall, Webb said.

Ontario Liberal parliamentary leader John Fraser said the legislation is completely wrong.

“The government should consider changing that law,” Fraser said. “It is not right or fair for the families.

The worst thing, he said, is that there is no recourse or appeal process for patients and their families.

“Where else do we do that in society where we say, ‘You have to do this, otherwise we’ll fine you, but you don’t have the right to appeal,'” he said. “It is the heavy hand of the government that we must protect ourselves against.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he is thinking about seniors who have been separated from family and support.

“That’s 293 families whose loved ones are not in the community where their care providers are,” he said.

“One of the things that is so underestimated is the role members play in caring for their loved ones. When those loved ones live far away, it means they can’t care for them as they would if they were in community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2024.

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