Published August 29, 2022

Ontario passes motion to skip public hearings on long-term care legislation

The Opposition NDP sought to stop the government from skipping the public hearing process, but that motion failed

By Liam Casey in Toronto

Ontario will skip public hearings for legislation that would allow hospital patients awaiting long-term care to be transferred to a nursing home without their consent, despite concerns from seniors and advocates.

The Progressive Conservative government passed a motion Monday to advance the bill without having it considered by committee or be subject to public hearings. 

"We need them in a home," Premier Doug Ford said in the legislature.

The Opposition NDP sought to stop the government from skipping the public hearing process, but that motion failed.

The legislation would allow hospital patients to be transferred to a temporary long-term care home without their consent while they await a bed in their preferred facility.

The province says there are about 6,000 patients in hospital who require an "alternate level of care" and should be discharged from hospital. Among those patients, 2,000 are on a waiting list for long-term care homes, the province said.

Hospitals across the province have shuttered emergency departments for hours or days at a time due to a severe nursing staff shortage in recent months.

Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra has said the legislation will free up badly needed acute care beds in hospitals.

"Experts agree that the best place for somebody who has been discharged from hospital, who is on the long-term care home waiting list to wait for their preferred home of choice, is in a long-term-care home, not in a hospital bed," Calandra said during question period on Monday.

The legislation does not allow patients to be physically moved to a long-term care home, but it remains unclear what would happen if a patient refused a transfer.

Calandra has said patients should "absolutely" be charged day rates if they refuse to move, but has not said how much that would be. 

He also has not said when alternate-level-of-care patients should be charged a $62-a-day co-pay, which advocates say is similar to what they would pay in long-term care, or when they should be subject to a hospital's uninsured rates, which can be thousands of dollars a day.

Hospitals can already charge that co-pay to those patients, which advocates say is roughly what they would be paying in long-term care.

The NDP, Liberal and Green parties called the government's move to bypass public hearings anti-democratic.

"Why are we not respecting our seniors?" said NDP long-term care critic Wayne Gates.

"They quite frankly built this province, they raised us, they need in their senior years to be treated with respect and dignity."

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the public's concerns need to be voiced.

"I think it's completely outrageous and anti-democratic for the government to not even have public hearings," he said. 

"So many elders, seniors, advocates, health-care professionals and others have raised significant concerns about this legislation."

Earlier Monday, the NDP held what they called a "public hearing" about the bill via videoconference.

Drew Cumpson, who suffered a spinal cord injury in May 2011 at the age of 20, said he's lived through being forced into a facility not of his choosing.

He spent 16 months in a hospital's intensive care unit, followed by three years in complex care before being moved into a long-term care home, where he has lived for the past seven years.

He is worried about where patients will be placed under the proposed legislative changes, be it far from home or in a community without proper supports.

The Kingston, Ont., native had to be airlifted to a facility in Toronto that offered ventilator rehabilitation service. He said he didn't have a choice as to where to continue his rehabilitation.

"That was something that I found demoralizing as well because I don't have any say here, and I don't feel comfortable being this far away from home at 20 years old and recently injured," he said. 

The government has previously said the distance someone could be moved from their home community would be set in regulation a week after the bill is passed.

Seniors are "downright angry" about the bill, said Trish McAuliffe, president of that National Pensioners Federation, which represents more than one million people. She said members of the organization are also alarmed and afraid.

"Bill 7 swipes directly at the core of human dignity: an older person's and their family's right to the enjoyment of life and respect," McAuliffe said.

Banner image: House Leader Paul Calandra attends question period at the Queen's Park Legislature in Toronto on Monday June 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2022.

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