The tyranny of the majority was on full display last week as Doug Ford’s Ontario Progressive Conservative government used its legislative majority to push through Bill 7, the controversial More Beds, Better Care Act, 2022 without any public consultation and little debate in the legislature.
The issue that this bill is aimed at addressing is the continued impact of the pandemic on the provincial health system and the occupation of limited acute care beds by patients who are unable to go home from the hospital due to care needs but are unwilling to move to a long-term care facility.
The unwillingness of any individual patient to move to a long-term care facility is based on their own personal situation and concerns, but a very large part of the issue is that long-term care facilities near the patient’s family and community often have waiting lists. This new bill will force the hand of clinicians, family members and patients to move into homes potentially far from their communities—providing a stick that some suggest could top out as high as $1,800 a day or more as the bill allows for the billing of costs of the hospital bed to the patient.
Bill 7 will have a disproportionate impact on lower and even mid- income families who not only would lack the resources to meet those costs but will also be separated from their loved ones by distance they do not have the resources to travel.
Critics point out that Bill 7 does have the potential to help fill those private nursing home beds left empty by the toll of the pandemic which had been hit hardest. Those same critics are quick to point out who sits on the boards of those private care homes. The government is in danger of leaving an odious air in the wake of this bill, one that may well outlive this current mandate, even if its victims do not—families remember.
Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha has said that it is never too late to turn from this path the Ford government seems bent on pursuing in a ham-fisted manner more appropriate to third world dictatorships than a representative democracy where governments are elected to represent all of the people and in this The Expositor heartily is in agreement.
For all of its laudable goal of lifting some of the strain that successive governments have placed on our health system in Ontario, Bill 7 is not the way to do it.
The Ford government should suspend Bill 7 and take immediate steps to alleviate the backlogs in nursing home waiting lists. Those shortfalls are not going to be relieved by this measure, even if a few beds are opened up by sacrificing some of our citizens at their most vulnerable. Premier Doug Ford should find a better way.