TORONTO, Ont. – There is an inherent bias and active systemic age discrimination in the application of provincial health reforms that is causing harm to frail, elderly patients, the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said at a Queen’s Park media conference today.
In releasing the findings of a joint OCHU, OSLA report: Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home: After Twenty Years of Budget Cuts, Ontario’s Health System is Failing Patients the groups announced they are pursuing legal avenues to challenge provincial health reforms disadvantaging elderly patients, who in some cases are being denied needed care and therapies.
The report chronicles the personal stories of hundreds of patients who called a 1-800 patient hotline set up for over a year. A key report finding is that the province’s near 20-year fixation with cuts to Ontario hospitals including the closure of 19,000 beds and decreased access to in hospital restorative convalescent care and is disproportionately affecting health outcomes for older Ontarians.
“There are human tragedies on a grand scale as a result of health delivery changes in this province. Many elderly patients are being pushed out of hospitals while acutely ill with little access to care at home. Some have died as a result. Some have been denied care. Elderly spouses and adult children have exhausted themselves trying to provide basic care. Their stories are heart-breaking and the legal challenge is intended as a catalyst for change. Ontarians deserve a health minister who is not immune to the untold suffering her government’s health policy reforms are causing,” said OCHU president Michael Hurley.
The majority (87 per cent) of hotline respondents’ stories profiled in the Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home report came from Ontarians who had a loved one prematurely discharged from hospital. These stories included a family coping with the aftermath of their grandmother’s deteriorating health following her repeated hospital discharges; an 86-year-old woman being sent home from the hospital with a cracked rib, an 87-year-old woman suffering a heart attack while in a waiting room for three hours, and multiple families threatened with huge fees by the hospital if their loved ones weren’t moved from the hospital to a long-term care facility.
The health ministry’s own data that shows that 1 in 6 Ontario patients are readmitted to hospital within 30 days of being discharged validates the report’s findings. There are over 10,000 and 35,000, mostly frail and elderly people, on wait-lists for home care and a bed in a nursing home.
Another key report finding is that since moving to an outpatient community care model, most therapy services, including speech language pathology services, have seen decreases in referral rates through Ontario’s Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), which leads to individuals not receiving the timely care they need. In 2012-2013 speech language pathology services amounted to just 0.7 per cent of all home care visits through CCACs. Due to hospital funding cuts, waiting periods to access some, in-hospital services, range from two to ten months.
“What we heard is this: If you have dementia; if you’ve suffered a severe stroke; if you have Parkinson’s disease; or if you have any kind of swallowing issue, chances are good that you are not going to get the appropriate care in a timely fashion,” says OSLA’s Mary Cook.
Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Homeposits solutions that encourage the provincial government to make alternative policy choices.
To download a PDF copy of Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home please visit: http://ochu.on.ca/events.html.
For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley, President, OCHU 416-884-0770
Mary Cook, Executive Director, OSLA 416-795-8711
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications 416-559-9300