Long-term care bill scarce in details

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

Ontario’s Bill 7,  More Beds, Better Care Act, 2022, recently passed through the Legislature. I voted against Bill 7 because it was scarce in details.

Sometimes it’s not what the legislation contains but rather the information it doesn’t.

I agree the issue of ALC (alternative level of care) beds has long plagued our province’s hospitals. Ontario hospitals have nearly 6,000 patients in ALC beds, and the current government wants to move them out. Given there is already a long list of seniors waiting for a long-term care bed, it begs the question of where the government will move these 6,000 patients. At the beginning of 2022, about 3,500 people in the Haldimand-Norfolk catchment area were waiting to get into a long-term care home.

While the previous government failed to build new homes, families are concerned Bill 7 will see loved ones moved from a hospital to a long-term care facility far from home.

The legislation will not allow patients to be physically forced into a long-term care home; however, questions remain about who will foot the bill for the continued ALC bed if they refuse a transfer. That ALC bed could become an uninsured bed at the cost of up to $1,800 per day.

While the question of cost has been asked several times over the past few weeks, the best the Premier has offered is that the price per day will not be what he called an “absolutely ridiculous” $1,800 per day. The Premier, however, has of yet, not told us who will pay.

Families fear officials will coerce seniors into moving far from home if they must choose between a transfer or paying out of pocket. Coercion is no way to fix our ailing healthcare system, and it is no way to treat our seniors who have worked hard and deserve only the best in their golden years.

I do not believe this bill has anything to do with opening-up hospital beds because, as I mentioned above, there are few beds available in nursing homes across Ontario. This spring, the government announced it was on track to build 30,000 new long-term care beds by 2028. I fully support the creation of additional beds. However, Bill 7 will be enacted well before 2028. Over the past year, I have seen beds approved at local facilities, and yet we continue to wait for the expansion of these homes.

If the government wants to open up ALC beds and move seniors into nursing homes within their community, they could start by getting shovels in the ground at homes where beds were previously approved. If they had made good on past promises, patients would not be lying in ALC beds, and they would already be in long-term care close to home.

After carefully considering the bill, I remain unclear about its true intention. Time will tell, I suppose. Perhaps we’d all be less suspicious if the government had sent the legislation to a committee where the public could have asked questions and given feedback. Instead, the government decided to ram Bill 7 through the House so they could move seniors into fictitious beds where a shortage of nurses and personal support workers remain.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP Haldimand-Norfolk