PCs introduce bill aimed at reducing hospital crowding

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QUEEN’S PARK—The Ford government has enacted the controversial Bill 7, touted as the ‘More Beds, Better Care Act, 2022.’ The bill was enacted as Chapter 16 of the Statutes of Ontario, amending the ‘Fixing Long-term Care Act, 2021.’

The new bill, which was put before the legislature at Queen’s Park without the usual course of public consultation adds the provision “that patients who occupy a bed in a public hospital and are designated by an attending clinician as requiring an alternate level of care (ALC).”

The new provision authorizes certain actions to be carried out without the consent of the patients or their families. The actions that will result from the implementation of Bill 7 include having a placement co-ordinator determine a patient’s eligibility for a long-term care home, then select a home and authorize their admission to the home. The provisions also include having certain persons conduct assessments for the purpose of determining a patient’s eligibility, requiring the licensee to admit the patient to the home when certain conditions have been met and allowing persons to collect, use and disclose personal health information, if it is necessary to carry out the actions.

There are limitations to the actions which cannot be performed without “first making reasonable efforts to obtain the patient’s consent. If consent is later provided by an ALC patient, the parts of the process that have been consented to must be conducted in accordance with sections 49 to 54 of the Act, subject to the regulations. The section does not authorize the use of restraints in order to carry out the actions or the physical transfer of an ALC patient to a long-term care home without their consent. Regulation-making powers are set out in relation to this new provision and the actions it authorizes.”

The Act goes on to set out a general definition of personal health information that applies to the Act.

With Island long-term care homes experiencing significant waiting lists, Manitoulin Centennial Manor last reporting around 24 people on the list, for example, and other homes experiencing similar admission challenges, an Island patient could be transferred to an off-Island home under the Act.

“It’s a devastating day for thousands of Ontarians and their loved ones,” said NDP leader Peter Tabuns. “Think of how helpless the families sitting at dad or grandma’s hospital bedside are feeling. Think of how scary it is, bracing for a call that will send your loved one to a long-term care home they don’t want to go to. I shudder at the thought of people being coerced into the kind of for-profit long-term care homes where the military found cockroaches and seniors stranded in soiled diapers.”

“What Doug Ford is doing is despicable,” said Mr. Tabuns. “Mr. Ford is playing a cruel shell game, shunting people from a badly understaffed hospital system into a badly understaffed long-term care system against their wishes. Mr. Ford admits he is bringing down a financial hammer on families if they won’t move when and where they’re told to—the only thing he won’t say is how big that hammer be. Is he planning to crush families with an unacceptable, $1,800-a-day fee?”

“It’s never too late to rip up this legislation and save families the pain of having their loved ones forced into long-term care homes they don’t want to go to,” said Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha, vowing that the NDP will not relent in its opposition to Bill 7.

“After all that we have learned from the pandemic, it is appalling that this government continues to propose the wrong solutions at the wrong time,” said interim Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser and Liberal critic for Long-Term Care Children, Community and Social Services. “Not only is their plan wrong for Ontarians and their families, but it’s also wrong for our long-term care homes, which are under even greater staffing pressures than our hospitals and whose pleas to the Ford government for help have been ignored.”

Unlike hospitals, long-term care homes can’t close down services to relieve staffing pressures, said the Liberal leader. “Long-term care homes are fully operational 24/7 making the current staffing crisis even more acute. There is no relief valve for them and that puts residents and staff at risk. Along with failing to adequately address the healthcare crisis head-on and the need for more healthcare workers, Bill 7 will also cause patients further distress by separating them from the support networks they have come to depend upon.”