New patient ombudsman legislation an insult to Ontario hospital patients and long-term care residents, families

TORONTO, April 1, 2014 /CNW/ - The Ontario government is offering "a mockery of a legitimate complaints process for hospital patients and long-term care residents" in new legislation (Bill 179) tabled recently, says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

A sharp contrast to the meaningful oversight under the office of the Ontario Ombudsman, the "patient ombudsman" proposed in Bill 179, "will have feeble powers.  It is apparent that there is no intention to provide a genuine complaints process backed by robust investigative authority for those who use our health care system," says Hurley.

Bill 179 proposes expanded powers for the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate complaints from the public in the school board, university and municipal sectors. However the health sector is not included in the new oversight extended to the provincial Ombudsman.

Instead of the "independent oversight," being proposed for other pockets of the public sector under the provincial Ombudsman, the province is positing an "insular process where patients and nursing home residents' complaints are redirected back to the hospital or long-term care facility. The opportunity to draw independent conclusions and to make recommendations for systemic change is absent," says Hurley.

Over two decades, OCHU has sponsored several hotlines where thousands of patients and their family members have been provided the opportunity to call and complain about the quality of their care; about acquiring a hospital infection; about being threatened with illegal surcharges; about being denied access to care or being pushed out of hospital while still acutely ill; and about being housed with residents with serious mental illnesses.

"The Ontario health care system is in serious need of a real complaints process for patients and residents of long-term care. But the process being proposed under Bill 179, is not it," says Hurley.  Ontario health care institutions "do enjoy a significant level of immunity from public scrutiny. Patients and long-term care residents and their families deserve nothing less than to be fully covered by the Ontario Ombudsman's Act."

SOURCE Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)

For further information: Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), 416.884.0770; Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications, 416.559.9300