Ontario is allowing hospitals to discharge patients to long-term care facilities or retirement homes without their consent as more and more beds are needed for COVID-19 patients.
Health Minister Christine Elliott made the announcement from Queen’s Park alongside Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health.
“While this is an extremely difficult decision to make, the consequences of not doing so could be devastating if we don’t have the hospital beds we urgently need to care for the growing number of COVID-19 patients,” Elliott said in a news release.
An amendment to a regulation under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act will allow doctors to transfer patients out of hospitals experiencing surges.
The move comes as hospitalizations rise and the province’s ICUs approach capacity. As of April 27, there were 2,336 people admitted to the hospital with the virus, including 875 in ICU.
Elliott said this order would only be used during major surge events when demand for beds by COVID-19 patients threatens to overwhelm hospitals. Healthcare staff would only move a patient if they are in stable condition and designated as ready to move to another setting and would consider cultural and language concerns.
Patients who are transferred to a long-term care facility that’s not their first choice will retain their priority on the waitlist for their first choice home. The copayment fee will also be waived for these transfers.
“Every effort is being made to make sure patients are fully vaccinated before transferring,” Elliott added.
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Ontario remains under a Stay-at-Home order to curb virus spread. The order is in place until May 19. Schools are also closed indefinitely to control transmission.
Premier Doug Ford remains in self-isolation after coming in close contact with a staffer who had COVID-19.