Forcing frail elderly patients out of hospitals and into long-term care homes not of their choosing and up to 150 km from their homes is playing a “cruel game of musical chairs” with the lives of Ontario seniors and their families, Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas said in a statement issued this week.
On Sept. 14, Premier Doug Ford’s government confirmed Bill 7 gives the province the power to force people into long-term care homes they didn’t choose or else face expensive daily charges to remain in hospital.
Starting Sept 21, Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said under the bill Southern Ontario patients can be moved up to 70 kilometres away from their home communities, while those in Northern Ontario may be moved up to 150 kilometres away.
What’s more, starting Nov. 20 hospitals must begin charging patients who have been discharged by their doctor and refuse to be moved to a home not of their choice a daily fee of $400.
Jones said discharge planners will have to have "very challenging" conversations with patients about going into a home that they do not want to go to.
"Those conversations include, 'Yes, we will need to charge if you refuse to take the long-term care bed that we have found for you,'" Jones told reporters.
"That part is to, frankly, make sure that people understand a hospital bed is for an acute patient, it is not for long-term care patient."
The ministers said the policy will only affect patients who are awaiting discharge from hospital and whose preferred long-term care homes do not have available spots.
In a joint statement, NDP Health Care critic France Gélinas and NDP Long-Term Care critic Wayne Gates said the legislation will certainly lead to declining health and untimely deaths for many people.
“Removing frail elderly people from their loved ones and essential caregivers is horrifying, and will cause seniors’ health and well-being to go downhill fast,” the MPPs said. “Imagine having to drive two hours to kiss your wife goodnight. Imagine the guilt of knowing you can’t afford to pay $400 a day to keep your dad in hospital, and having to put him in a for-profit long-term care home with a devastating record and disgusting living conditions.”
Not only will Bill 7 not address the staffing issues in Ontario’s health care system, it is also cruel, Gélinas and Gates said.
“These seniors do not have doctors and nurses assigned to them when they’re in hospital. Forcing them to move will not ease our health care staffing crisis one bit. What we should be doing is addressing the staffing crisis at the heart of our health care crisis, not playing a cruel game of musical chairs that kicks seniors and people with disabilities out of hospital beds.”
-with files from The Canadian Press