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HomeWorld NewsHealthAdvocates, critics warn Ontario's planned changes to long-term care are a violation...

Advocates, critics warn Ontario’s planned changes to long-term care are a violation of patient rights

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A group of senior care advocates and critics are warning planned changes to the long-term care sector are a fundamental violation of patient rights.

On Thursday, Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra introduced new legislation that, if passed, would allow hospitals to transfer patients awaiting a bed in their preferred LTC home to be placed in a “temporary” home after staff make “reasonable efforts to obtain the patient’s consent.”

Bill 7, More Beds, Better Care Act, authorizes certain actions to be carried out — such as the transfer of a patient to an LTC home — without the consent of patients if an attending clinician deems they require “an alternate level of care.”

Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos, a long-term care advocate and professor at Ontario Tech University, called the legislation “morally repugnant.”

“How does all of this not send the direct message to seniors that their lives don’t matter?” said Stamatopoulos Friday at a news conference with the Advocacy Centre for Elders and the Ontario Health Coalition.

“And frankly, does it matter what they want, what they need, what is in their best interests? Apparently, what is important is just making sure that all of these beds are full.”

WATCH: Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra discusses proposed changes to LTC:

Ontario LTC Minister on plan to send patients to temporary LTC homes to ease health-care pressures

“If you’re on the long-term care wait list, the best place to wait for long-term care is in a long-term care, freeing up those acute care beds for other people who really need them,” says Ontario Long-term Care Minister Paul Calandra.

Calandra said Thursday the legislation would not force anyone who doesn’t want to leave the hospital to go and wouldn’t make “any changes to the priority waiting list,” but would allow long-term care homes to be part of the solution to improving Ontario hospitals — many of which are under severe strain due to staffing shortages.

“There is a challenge in acute care, and long-term care is in a position to make a difference for the first time in generations,” said Calandra.

Potential legal action

Seniors advocate Patricia Spindel, 74, told The Canadian Press she lives in fear of being sent to a hospital and then off to a home far from her family.

She compared the prospect to periods of the COVID-19 pandemic when families were banned from long-term care homes for months at a time.

As it stands now, Jane Meadus, a staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, says the legislation takes away the fundamental right to consent to health care and could have dire results on a patient, particularly if they’re sent to a home unable to provide the level of care they need.

Meadus says while it’s hard to say what kind of legal action can be taken until further details are released, lawyers are already eyeing legal options.

“I know many lawyers are looking at this and are absolutely horrified at this breach of fundamental justice and fundamental rights of people, specifically the elderly and people who are disabled,” said Jane Meadus, a staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly at a news conference Friday.

“It absolutely is something that we would be looking at, and are already discussing.”

Opposition takes aim

Speaking to CBC’s Power & Politics, Calandra said he hopes to have the legislation passed no later than Sep. 1, with regulations guided by an “overriding principle” to place patients close to their preferred LTC home and loved ones to follow about a week after. 

Leading up to that time, he says he’ll be consulting with the long-term care sector.

Wayne Gates, the Ontario NDP critic for Long-Term Care, Home Care and Retirement Homes, says the legislation is terrifying for families.

“Consent is not required. Families have no idea just how far away their loved one could be moved in the final years of their life,” said Gates in a statement. 

The party says it takes issue with allowing seniors to be moved without their consent and the lack of limits on how far seniors can be sent away from loved ones built into the legislation. It also says the legislation paints a “dim picture” of moving seniors without their consent when the government has to specifically rule out physically binding a senior when carrying out the actions of the bill or transferring a patient.

“The regulations aren’t written yet, and can be written and re-written with the stroke of the premier’s pen behind closed doors,” Gates said.

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