The Seniors’ Health Advisory Committee, Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District (SHAC) identifies and addresses current health issues that impact the well-being of seniors in the Algoma District. We advocate for improvements in how older adults live and thrive.
SHAC is concerned about the ramifications of Ontario’s Bill 7, the More Beds Better Care Act, which came into effect November 20, without ever having gone through public consultation.
This legislation affects hospital patients, the majority of them elderly, called Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients, who are waiting for long-term care or other services. It enables hospitals and discharge planners to:
• assess the patient without their consent,
• share their personal health information to an array of long-term care or other companies without their consent,
• fill in their applications without their consent, and;
• admit them into long-term care homes or other services without their consent.
In Northern Ontario, patients can be transferred up to 150 km away for long-term care placement, or if there are no beds available, any distance. If a patient refuses to go, the hospital is required to charge them $400 per day.
The $400 daily penalty will coerce elderly patients without financial resources into homes far from their spouses and other loved ones. Loved ones may be unable to visit on a regular basis. During the COVID-19 lockdown, depriving patients of access to loved ones caused serious physical and emotional suffering. Bill 7 will again impose this harm on seniors. Because the average length of stay in a long-term care home is eighteen months, even a temporary placement far from home will mean that many will never see their loved ones again.
On November 21, 2022 the Ontario Health Coalition and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly announced a joint Charter challenge to the Ford government’s new law. SHAC supports the Ontario Health Coalition and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly in this challenge. We agree that Bill 7 is an egregious violation of an elderly and/or vulnerable person’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. People with infirmities go to long-term care homes when they require medical and nursing care. Denying a frail person, the choice of where to live to receive that care robs them of their rights to autonomy and dignity which are protected under the Charter. And because only a specific section of our population is affected, predominately the aged, Bill 7 also infringes on their right to equality. Our Charter rights do not diminish with age.
ALC patients did not cause the health care crisis. Ontario has downsized its hospitals through funding policies. Ontario now has the lowest number of hospital beds per capita in Canada. Ontario’s hospital funding is the lowest of all the provinces. Funding shortages have contributed to severe health care staffing shortages. Riding roughshod over the fundamental rights of the very generation that built our health care system is not an effective or acceptable solution.
Bill 7 will not solve a problem. It is a problem.
Newly released National Long-Term Care Standards have been praised as the most progressive, thoughtful, pragmatic approaches to transforming long-term care and highlighting the quality of life of long-term care residents. Ontario’s coercion of the frail and elderly is in direct contradiction to the values espoused in that report.