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Ontario Hansard - 21-April2021

COVID-19 RESPONSE


Mr. Joel Harden: My question is to the Minister of Health.

As many people have already raised this morning, our ICUs are near the breaking point. We’re getting close to 800 patients now being treated in our ICUs. Despite this fact, the government has refused to make public its plans for critical care triage in those ICUs.

People with disabilities and their loved ones and advocacy organizations still don’t know what has been negotiated in secret and what actually will happen when those life-and-death decisions take place.

At home, Dr. David Neilipovitz, the ICU director at the Ottawa Hospital, told CBC News, “It would be naive for us to think that triage or changes in the standard of care have not already come about.” Let’s think about that.

Yesterday, the minister rose in this House and said there is no clinical triage protocol, but we know that hospitals received one on January 13. We also know that a training was done for medical professionals on YouTube on January 23.

Speaker, I want to ask the minister, who is very well-versed on these issues: What instructions have been sent out and drafted to emergency medical technicians, ambulance services or health professionals about who will live and who will die in our ICUs?

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Hon. Christine Elliott: I can certainly advise the member that no triage protocol has been activated or approved by the government of Ontario. There have been discussions—I understand that there were a number of disability groups who were concerned with respect to a previous draft that was prepared earlier this year. That was then reviewed with the human rights commission. There have been a number of discussions about modifications to it. But nothing has been activated, nothing has been approved by this government.

What we are doing instead is creating the capacity so that we can care for all the patients who come into our hospitals, whether they’re COVID-19 patients or emergency patients who otherwise come in. We have created over 3,100 beds since this pandemic began; increased our intensive care capacity by 14%.

We are looking at bringing in other health professionals from other provinces and other countries so that, notwithstanding having the creation of those spaces, we will also have the health human resources in order to be able to operate them safely, carefully and professionally.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.

Mr. Joel Harden: Earlier today, I was joined by disability rights leaders for a media conference, all of whom are calling upon this government to make public its plans for critical care triage.

I know this minister served as Patient Ombudsperson for this province for years and knows full well that every patient—physiotypical, neurotypical or not—has a right to fair care at the point of service. The minister also should know that hospitals got a critical triage protocol on January 13, that a training has been conducted. So I must admit my extreme frustration that today, when our ICUs are nearing capacity, we are still hearing, “There are no plans.”

Speaker, let me say very clearly for this House: “I didn’t know”—at this point, not an acceptable answer. “I was just following orders”—at this point, not an acceptable answer. “Please forgive me,” to disabled patients and their loved ones—not an acceptable answer.

Will you make sure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the ICUs? Yes or no?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Again, I’ll ask the members to make their comments through the Chair.

The Minister of Health to reply.


Hon. Christine Elliott: The rights of people with disabilities has been one of my strongest passions since I got to this place 15 years ago, and I don’t need to take any instructions from anybody—

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Ha!

Hon. Christine Elliott: —including the leader of the official opposition, about this issue. I have always stood up for the rights of people with disabilities—

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. Opposition, come to order. The member for Northumberland–Peterborough South, come to order.

The Minister of Health, please reply.


Hon. Christine Elliott: The rights of people with disabilities has been one of the issues that we have cared about and dealt with as part of this entire pandemic. The rights of people with disabilities are equally as important as the rights of anybody else. That is something that I’ve always stood by, that I always will stand by.

I can assure the member opposite that no triage protocol has been approved. A draft was circulated in January. That was not approved by this government. It was something that has been discussed.

I understand that the rights of people with disabilities have been brought forward. I asked them—

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre, come to order. The member for Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas, come to order.

Would the minister please conclude her response?


Hon. Christine Elliott: I asked that this issue be dealt with—with the people with disabilities groups as well as with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. There have been numerous discussions, but nothing has been activated yet, and I can assure you that nothing has been approved at this point. We are working to make sure—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. The next question.
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