Letter to the Editor: Protecting Elderly Patients

Published Dec 1 2023 | via the National Post

Protecting elderly patients

Re: Ontario woman says her dying grandma was asked to leave the hospital after she outlived her cancer prognosis — Sam Riches, Nov. 21

It is not infrequent that the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly is contacted by patients or family members about patients being discharged from palliative care because they did not die by an arbitrary deadline.

Despite what patients are told, there is not, in fact, any legal limit to a patient’s entitlement to palliative care. Patients cannot be arbitrarily discharged from hospital because the hospital wants to replace them with someone else: it is only that patient’s needs that are of concern.

It is the sole legal responsibility of the most responsible physician to make a discharge order, not the patient care/flow/discharge co-ordinator or social worker. Further, that physician owes the patient a duty of care to ensure that the patient is ready to be discharged based on their health needs and that the discharge can occur safely.

The More Beds, Better Care Act did not change that situation: when a patient is ready to be discharged, if they continue to require care which is not yet available (for example long-term or hospice care), that must be put into place before the discharge occurs. In this case, it appears that not only was no plan in place (hospice care), but the reason for that was the hospital staff failing to submit the appropriate paperwork — yet they still tried to discharge a dying, elderly woman. Neither had they made any plans for homecare, or a place for her to go, should those have been acceptable, and they have no authority to force family to provide that care in their homes. And to top off their blunders, they recommended that she go to a motel!

I wish I could say that this situation is unique — but it’s not. Patients and families must push back at hospitals and demand more of our government to provide high-quality health care in Ontario without the fear of being thrown out on the street.

Jane E. Meadus, Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, Toronto