The province announced Wednesday that it will begin moving hospital patients to long-term care without their consent in order to free up space for COVID-19 patients during the third wave of the pandemic.
To do so, the province is amending O. Reg. 272/21 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA).
“This temporary emergency order will provide hospitals with the flexibility to transfer patients whose doctors have determined no longer require hospital care to long-term care or retirement homes without obtaining the consent of the patient or, where the patient is incapable, their substitute decision maker,” the province said in a statement. “The amended order can only be used during major surge events where the demand for critical care threatens to overwhelm a hospital and compromise care.”
“Transfers will only be made when medical professionals are confident they will not compromise the patient’s medical condition, and where all of the other conditions specified within the order have been met including agreement by the home that they can meet the patient’s needs. Every effort will be made to ensure these patients are fully immunized from COVID-19 before moving.
“Patients who are not placed in their first choice of long-term care or who are transferred to a retirement home will retain their priority on the long-term care waitlist for their first-choice home, the statement read.
Based on the latest modelling data, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU occupancy are continuing to increase rapidly and are now at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The Science Advisory Table projects that the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU will reach 1,100 and around 1,200 acute care COVID admissions by May.
“Thousands of people continue to wait in hospital for discharge to other more appropriate settings, including long-term care. Using temporary policy measures, it may be possible to safely and effectively increase the number of patients being discharged to a care setting more appropriate to their health needs,” said Anthony Dale, President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association.
The province has already been transferring hundreds of patients from the GTA to hospitals in other parts of Ontario in order to free up space.
There are now six field hospitals set up across the province, adding hundreds of acute care beds to the system.
Several hundred healthcare workers from the federal government, the Canadian Forces and the provinces of Newfoundland and New Brunswick have arrived in Ontario to help hospitals cope with the burden.