Disability Rights Advocate Resorts to Freedom of Information Application to Unearth the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage if Overcrowded Hospitals Can’t Serve All Critically-Ill Patients

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

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Disability Rights Advocate Resorts to Freedom of Information Application to Unearth the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage if Overcrowded Hospitals Can’t Serve All Critically-Ill Patients

May 20, 2021 Toronto: To Mark today, Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance makes public a Freedom of Information application by its chair, David Lepofsky, filed to finally enable the public to see the Ford Government’s secret plans for critical care triage. Since the pandemic began over 14 months ago, the Ford Government has kept a tight lid on its critical care triage plans. This new Freedom of Information application tries to drag into public light The Government’s plans on this life-and-death issue. (Key excerpt from the Freedom of Information application set out below).

“It’s great that daily infections are dropping and vaccines are reaching more people, but the risk remains that critical care may have to be triaged if this positive trend reverses, if there’s new variants or if there’s a fourth wave,” said David Lepofsky, who leads the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities, including in the health care system. “The public has a right to know exactly what instructions have been given to ICU hospital staff and ambulance crews on who lives and who dies, if critical care triage becomes necessary. The public also has a right to know who is making these life-and-death decisions for the Government, and that is what my Freedom of Information application aims to unearth.”

This Freedom of Information application is necessary because the Ford Government has refused to answer any of the nine detailed and well-researched letters that the AODA Alliance has sent over the past eight months to Health Minister Christine Elliott, including the AODA Alliance‘s September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter, its December 17, 2020 letter, its January 18, 2021 letter, its February 25, 2021 letter and its April 27, 2021 letter. It has refused to directly consult with the AODA Alliance or other disability advocates on this issue, hiding behind its external Bioethics Table, an advisory body that makes no decisions on this issue.

“If you want to see the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol, you won’t find it on a Government website. You will only find a leaked copy on the AODA Alliance website. We have no idea whether it has been changed since we got a leaked copy back in January,” said Lepofsky. “While critical care triage has not been publicly launched, Ontario hospitals have been doing practice drills behind closed doors using the Government’s secret instructions.”

The AODA Alliance, other disability groups and the Ontario Human Rights Commission have raised serious objections to disability discrimination in those parts of Ontario’s critical care triage plans that have been leaked to the public. When the Government is confronted with these concerns, it deflects inquiries to doctors, rather than publicly owning up to the critical care triage plans that are being readied under the Ford Government’s auspices.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 independent report on Ontario’s plans for critical care triage if hospitals are overwhelmed by patients needing critical care,
  1. The AODA Alliance’s captioned new online video detailing the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  1. The May 7, 2021 guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the Toronto Star and
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and its COVID-19 page, detailing its efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID pandemic

Excerpt from the May 18, 2021 Freedom of Information application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

  1. A record or records from on or after January 1, 2021 (including draft instructions or directions that have not yet been approved or activated) that directs hospitals and/or physicians in hospitals on how and/or when to conduct triage or rationing of critical care including refusing critical care to a patient needing critical care, including but not limited to any document purporting to set out an “Emergency Standard of Care” in relation to critical care. This includes any protocols or directions, draft or final, in relation to patients age 18 or older as well as any such directions or instructions, draft or otherwise, that relate to patients under the age of 18.
  1. A record or records dated on or after March 28, 2020 to ambulance services, ambulance crews, emergency medical technicians or other emergency patient transportation services, that directs (or includes draft directions that have not yet been activated or approved) emergency transportation staff on how or when to conduct triage or rationing of critical care in which critical care may be refused to patients needing critical care, including but not limited to any document purporting to set out an “Emergency Standard of Care” in relation to critical care.
  1. Any document or documents that include any or all of the following:
  1. a) Membership of the Critical care COVID Command Centre
  1. b) the Mandate and or assigned responsibilities of the Critical Care COVID Command Centre
  1. c) Any instructions since January 1, 2021 from or on behalf of the Critical care COVID Command Centre, in addition to those documents requested in paragraphs 1 or 2 above, to hospitals/and/or doctors, and/or ambulance crews or emergency medical technicians or emergency patient transportation services and/or any other health care professionals, on how and/or when to conduct any form of critical care triage so as to decline to provide critical care to a patient who needs critical care (including draft directions or instructions that have not yet been activated or approved).
  1. Any correspondence between the Ministry of Health and/or Ontario health and/or the Critical Care COVID Command Centre on the one hand, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) on the other, dated September 11, 2020 or afterwards, on the topic of critical care triage and how and/or when critical care triage is to be conducted.
  1. Any document from September 11, 2020 and afterwards setting out plans or options or draft plans (whether or not they have been activated, approved or implemented) for legalizing, permitting or directing hospitals and/or physicians to withdraw critical care from a patient who needs critical care and does not consent to the withdrawal of critical care.