Transfers without consent possible, as Ontario builds more capacity at hospitals

(Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Leaf)

Acknowledging it would be difficult for patients and their families, the Ontario government is amending an emergency order, so hospitals can move some patients into long-term care settings faster.

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson both said they hope hospitals never need to use it.

“This order is not going to be applied across every hospital,” said Anderson. “This is specifically in the case where we have a hospital and a community are in what is defined as ‘major surge.'”

The patients facing transfer would be those ready to move into long-term care anyway, but their home of choice may not have a bed for them. Usually, they might wait for a spot to open, but if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitals need the flexibility to move them to a home that may not be their first pick.

Elliott said efforts will be made to work with families, but a patient could be transferred without their or caregivers consent in the worst scenario, possibly to a facility far from their family.

“Theoretically, but practically speaking, we are making every effort to make sure that anyone that would be moved would be close to their family or to their first choice of long-term care home,” said Elliott.

She said every effort will be made to ensure the patient is vaccinated against COVID-19 before they are transferred, and the order can only be used in the event a hospital is overwhelmed with new COVID-19 patients.

The Ontario NDP was quick to condemn the order.

“It’s heartbreaking to think of seniors being sent far from their families, to live in long-term care homes they didn’t choose, without their consent,” said Deputy Leader Sara Singh. “People could be torn away from their loved ones, sent to a place their family objects to.”

Currently, new cases appear to be levelling off. Anderson told reporters the growth in new hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care is slowing. However, he stressed public health officials are waiting for new projections.

“While we’re very optimistic, we do not have an updated forecast and the forecast that we received two weeks ago we would still see a considerable amount of growth in our hospitals,” said Anderson. ”

As of Wednesday, there were 2,281 patients in Ontario hospitals with the virus and 818 of them in intensive care. The province reported 3,480 new cases.