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Ontario won't divulge total fines for hospital patients refusing transfers to LTC

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Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones and her ministry are refusing to divulge the amount of money that seven patients in the province have been fined for not accepting transfers from a hospital to a long-term care home not of their choosing.

A law enacted in 2022, known as Bill 7, requires hospitals to levy fines of $400 a day on patients who can be discharged but need long-term care and are refusing to go to a nursing home selected for them by a placement co-ordinator.

The government had long said it was not aware of anyone being fined, but a spokesperson for Jones said last week that they just learned that seven people have been fined, as Ontario Health had not been relaying that information.

Since then, daily requests to the ministry by The Canadian Press for the total charges those seven people face have been ignored.

When asked the same question Thursday, Jones did not respond.

The three opposition parties say the law should be repealed, but at a bare minimum the government should be up front about how its law is affecting patients and their families.

"They should be transparent about its effect on patients," said Liberal long-term care critic John Fraser. "There should be an appeal process. People are powerless. What the government is doing is wrong and they know it's wrong. That's why they're hiding."

Nearly 300 patients have been moved to long-term care homes not of their choosing under the law, which is aimed at opening up much-needed hospital space. Patients can be placed in nursing homes up to 70 kilometres away — or 150 kilometres if they are in northern Ontario — that they didn't opt for, if space opens up there first.

The seven people who have been fined under the law would have refused to leave the hospital.

A woman in Windsor, Ont., told The Canadian Press she is refusing to move her mother from a hospital bed to a long-term care home she says looks "disgusting." The hospital informed her on March 11 she will be charged $400 a day, which would total more than $12,000 by now.

NDP long-term care critic Wayne Gates said if the government is proud of its law it should be speaking publicly about how it is working.

"They should be telling everybody how many people are being charged, why they're being charged, where they're going, how many are being moved ... 150 kilometers away," he said.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said levying fines on people in hospital is outrageous and wrong.

"Come on Ontario, we're better than this," he said. "The government, at the very least, if they're going to coerce people into leaving hospital and/or fine them, they need to be honest with the people of Ontario of how many patients are being affected and what the fines are."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2024. 

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