Health coalition to fight Ontario law forcing elderly hospital patients into long-term care homes in court

Some health care advocates are going to court to challenge Ford government’s new law forcing elderly into long-term care homes against their choice.

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) launched a Constitutional Challenge Monday morning in response to the Ford government’s ‘More Beds Better Care Act’ (2022) . 

The two groups will be co-applicants to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in what is known as a Charter Challenge, seeking a court ruling to strike down the law as a violation of the fundamental rights of the patients affected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On Sunday November 20, regulations under Bill 7, titled More Beds Better Care Act (2022) came into effect, requiring hospitals to charge elderly patients $400 if they refuse to go to a long-term care home or other service against their will. 

“Despite the title given to it by the Ford government, the Act neither provides more beds nor better care,” the OHC said in a statement.

In Southern Ontario patients will be transferred up to 70 km away. In Northern Ontario, patients can be transferred up to 150 km away, or if there are no beds available, any distance.

“The purpose of the legislation and mandatory $400 fee is to intimidate and coerce older adults to leave hospital, to any destination, even those which are inappropriate,” said Jane Meadus, lawyer and institutional advocate at the ACE. “Under this law, hospitalized senior’s personal health information can be sent to any long-term care home without their consent, breaching a fundamental right to privacy over health information that every other Ontario citizen enjoys.”

OHC Executive Director Natalie Mehra says Ontarians are both furious and fearful about being forced into long-term care homes that are far away or that have terrible reputations.

“There is no doubt there is a crisis in our hospitals – a crisis that is the result of government policy choices – choices to fund Ontario’s hospitals at the lowest rate in the country and to have the fewest beds of any province staffed and in operation,” stated Mehra. “Choices not to do what is needed to improve the staffing crisis and build more public long-term care beds as quickly as possible. There are many other solutions to the hospital crisis, but steamrolling over the fundamental rights of the elderly and the dying is not one of them.

“We are talking about elderly patients in the last months of their lives. They are human beings with the same right to compassion and care as all Ontarians. Their lives have value. They cannot just be shipped off against their will to somewhere they are afraid to go, away from their loved ones, where they will most likely die. It is wrong. We have to challenge this, on principle,” she concluded. 

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