A recent Postmedia article by author Dave Battagello spoke of some unpleasant Health care changes destined to be activated this week. This move by the provincial government may spell trouble for seniors as it includes plans to force some out of hospital beds and into long-term care homes not of their choice — even possibly a great distance away from their home community, the Ontario Health Coalition announced on Friday.
“This legislation overrides the fundamental human rights of frail, vulnerable elderly patients,” said Natalie Mehra, the coalition’s executive director.
Hospital officials for years have often held discussions with elderly patients and their families about moving to long-term care facilities to free up hospital beds. Patients currently can choose up to five long-term care homes as their preference.
But proposed health-care changes announced this week by the government would enable hospitals to push elderly patients into any long-term care facilities not of their choice— even outside of the local community.
Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said the More Beds, Better Care Act, if passed, will provide hospitals with the ability to transfer patients awaiting a long-term care bed of their choice to be placed in a “temporary” home.
The goal will be to keep elderly patients as close to home as possible, he said. But given the current hospital crisis and need for more acute-care beds, the transfer of a patient to any long-term care facility could be carried out without their consent if an attending physician believes ”an alternate level of care” should be considered and patient be discharged.
There will be distance limits included in the legislation before it’s finalized, Calandra said on Thursday. A patient can say no to a transfer outside of their area and no one will be forced to move.
“We are not going to be forcing anyone out of a home,” he said. “But the changes do allow us to continue that conversation, to explain to someone in a hospital why their needs could be met in a long-term care home.”
But the coalition noted life expectancy of seniors entering long-term care on average is only 18 months and how inadequate long-term care facilities has been one of the most common complaints received by patient advocates.
“What we think this is about is filling up beds of the worst long-term care homes that people do not want to go to — for good reason,” Mehra said. “The government cannot override the rights of seniors to shore up the profits of long-term care operators with terrible records and reputations.”
A narrative of the elderly taking up hospital resources must also end as they have just as much right to a proper level of care as anyone younger, said members of the coalition.
“By sending a patient without consent to any long-term care bed available shows the elderly are being discriminated against,” said Shirley Roebuck, chairwoman of the Sarnia Chatham-Kent Health Coalition and a retired nurse. “This takes away their fundamental right of choice.”
Most “alternate-level of care” patients classified as being in need of a long-term care bed are elderly, she said.
By forcing them into any available long-term care home, even far from their own community, “you could be asking their spouse, family or older friends to drive miles and miles, even in the snow, to see their loved ones,” Roebuck said.
“Many more long-term care patients are going to be isolated.”
She was encouraging people to speak out against the government’s proposed legislation before it gets finalized.
“We need people to speak up and stand up,” Roebuck said. “We need to create a huge fight back on this.”
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