By Liam Casey in Toronto
Ontario hospital patients awaiting spots in long-term care can be moved to nursing homes not of their choosing up to 150 kilometres away, with charges of $400 per day if they refuse, the province announced Wednesday.
Starting next week, patients in southern Ontario can be moved up to 70 kilometres away, while those in northern Ontario may be moved up to 150 kilometres away, Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said in a statement Wednesday.
“Regulations and guidance will be given to our health care partners that keep them close to home and respect religious, ethnic and language preferences,” Jones and Calandra said. “Couples will be kept together.”
The regulations announced Wednesday are part of an effort to free up hospital beds as the health-care system grapples with temporary emergency room closures and a surgical backlog.
“We want to be clear about what this policy does: it frees up hospital beds so that people waiting for surgeries can get them sooner; it eases pressures on crowded emergency departments by admitting patients sooner,” Jones and Calandra said.
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.
The changes will begin Wednesday of next week.
Starting on Nov. 20, hospitals will be required to charge 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.
The province introduced legislation last month that would allow hospitals to send so-called alternate level of care patients to a long-term care home not of their choosing on a temporary basis.
The province has said there are about 1,800 of those patients currently in hospital awaiting a spot in one of their five preferred choices in a long-term care home.
The bill, which was pushed through the legislature without public hearings, has sparked outrage from seniors and advocates.
Jones and Calandra said the distances patients can be moved is “based on input we received from the sector and provide hospitals with the options needed for this policy to be effective.”
Hospital emergency departments across the province have been closed for hours or days at a time in recent months, largely due to a nursing shortage.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2022.
Banner image via The Canadian Press