A controversial law allowing the province to force elderly hospital patients into long-term care homes regardless of their choosing is facing major backlash, including a constitutional challenge.
It has some Kingston, Ont. seniors and their families concerned.
While hospitals in the region say applying the law is a last resort, they are ready to use it, if necessary, to free up much-needed beds.
“They are taking away people’s rights to decide where they should live,” says 85-year-old Kingston resident Phyllis Livesey.
Livesey has more than a few choice words for the provincial government and Bill 7.
With Bill 7 already in effect as of Sept. 21, the controversial law allows some discharged elderly hospital patients to be sent to long-term care homes that could be as far as 70 kilometres away in southern Ontario, and 150 kilometres away in the northern reaches of the province.
While Livesey says she is optimistic that she is in good enough health and family support would mean it won’t happen to her, she has plenty of friends in the community who are concerned.
“It was a worry, because the one couple that I know don’t have a car,” she says.
“If he was to be sent to a home 100 kilometres from here, there would be no way of them seeing each other.”
“In Kingston, at the moment we are seeing a high volume of patients coming into emergency,” says Meghan McCourt, the interim director of patient flow at Kingston Health Sciences Centre.
“So we are watching very closely what we can do to support the flow out of the building, because that’s really important for access for those who need that acute care. So that’s where this bill is really important.”
McCourt says local hospitals have not had to use Bill 7 yet, but would be utilized in rare circumstances where a patient refused to be discharged, and if there was no other option.
“We are not going to lead with this, this isn’t a starting point to planning,” says McCourt.
“We are going to collaborate with patients and families, and we are going to optimize what we can for assessment, in making sure we use all options. This really should be a last resort.”
The Ontario Health Coalition has launched a constitutional challenge against the law, claiming it’s a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But in the meantime, KHSC says they’re working on a policy with hospitals across the region, including Brockville, Perth and Smiths Falls, to make patient discharge under the bill as consistent and fair as possible.
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