Two advocacy groups have launched a constitutional challenge to the Ontario legislation that forces the elderly out of hospitals and into long-term care homes that are not of their choosing.
"The impact on the lives of the elderly is massive. They are human beings, they have equal rights to compassion and to care as everyone else in our society. These are the last moves of their lives, the last months of their lives," said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "Their lives have value they cannot just be shipped off against their will somewhere they are afraid to go away from their loved ones where they most likely will die."
Bill 7, passed by the Ontario legislature in September, allows hospitals to transfer Alternate Level of Care patients to long-term care homes that are not on their preferred list. The homes can be up to 70 km away in southern Ontario and 150 km away in Northern Ontario.
If a patient refuses the transfer, the patient can be charged $400 a day to stay in hospital. This fee came into effect on Sunday, November 20, 2022.
The Ontario Health Coalition and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly are submitting to the Superior Court of Justice that Bill 7 violates two sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Lawyer Ben Piper with Goldblatt Partners indicated they will make submissions that the bill violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which indicates everyone has a right to life, liberty, and security of person.
"We can clearly establish that Bill 7 will take away decision-making by long-term care patients, by ALC patients or their substitute decision-makers on a number of fundamental personal choices that go to the heart of basic human dignity," said Piper.
The bill also allows hospitals and discharge planners to share personal health information with long-term care facilities without the patient's consent, a violation of the right to privacy over health information.
They will also submit that Bill 7 violates Section 15 which states the government can not enact laws that have a disproportionate impact on a disadvantaged group, like the elderly.
"These are overwhelmingly elderly patients and that is the source, usually the cause, of the physical or mental health issues that require chronic care in the first place. It's also a group that we know is already subject to prejudice and stereotyping as disposable and as bed blockers, as an obstacle in the way of effective health care."
The Ontario Health Coalition is looking to raise funds to cover the costs of the Charter Challenge. It's estimated the challenge will cost around $500,000.