Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Omicron Surge Amplifies the Need for The Ford Government to Remove the Disability Discrimination From the Critical Care Triage Protocol in Ontario Hospitals – and — Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release on Online Health Card Renewals
December 21, 2021
The Ford Government has still not fixed the disability discrimination in Ontario’s controversial critical care triage protocol. We explain why this is even more important in light of the Omicron variant. We also provide a correction to the AODA Alliances December 20, 2021 news release regarding disability discrimination in the Ford Government’s process for online renewal of Ontario Health Cards.
1. Eliminating the Festering Disability Discrimination in Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Protocol is Long Overdue – Where is the Ford Government’s Pledge to Protect the Most Vulnerable During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
With the rapid and raging spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, it is high time that the Ford Government comes clean about the secret protocol that it has allowed to be entrenched in hospital emergency and intensive care wards across Ontario all year. If hospitals get overloaded and cannot provide life-saving critical care to every patient who needs it, the critical care triage protocol directs blatant disability discrimination against some patients with disabilities, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. The AODA Alliance and other disability advocates have been sounding the alarm about this concern since early after the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has secured national media attention.
Yet for over a year, the Ford Government has misled, dodged and avoided many important questions. It has refused to answer any of the nine detailed letters that the AODA Alliance has sent to Premier Ford’s Health Minister. Those letters are all set out on the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.
The AODA Alliance, the ARCH Disability Law Centre, and others have amply documented the flagrant disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage plans. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is on record also raising such concerns. Even several members of the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table have sounded alarms. The Government’s defenders have responded with justifications that we have shown to be demonstrably false.
Thankfully, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs (intensive care units) is now less than 200. That is reportedly well below the point where critical care triage would be formally triggered. However, there are several strong reasons why this disability discrimination needs to be fixed now, before an impending critical care triage crisis:
First, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant will clearly put more and more demand on Ontario hospitals, as it is already doing elsewhere. Second, the Ford Government’s very slow roll-out of booster vaccine shots, dragging well into the new year, means many Ontarians who want a booster shot will have to wait weeks for them. Without that booster shot, many Ontarians will remain vulnerable to the Omicron variant.
Third, the Ford Government has never made public any critical care triage directives issued to emergency medical services, such as ambulances. As the Omicron variant spreads, we have no way to know if some kind of informal or unreported critical care triage is going on in ambulances, before patients ever get to the hospital.
The critical care triage protocol in Ontario hospitals was leaked last January to the AODA Alliance. You can find it on the AODA Alliance website. In contrast, we are still awaiting action from the Ford Government under a Freedom of Information application that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky filed last May on this topic.
Fourth, well before a critical care triage protocol might be formally declared, there is a form of backdoor triage that can go on during the pandemic, in which there is a danger of disability discrimination. There is a backlog of surgeries in Ontario that risks getting worse if Omicron surges. When hospitals decide who to prioritize for surgery during those backlogs, the danger of disability discrimination creeping into their deliberations is made more serious by the discriminatory attitudes and requirements that lie at the core of Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
Finally, the Ford Government has allowed rank disability discrimination to be deeply embedded in the critical care triage training of frontline medical staff in hospital emergency wards and ICUs around Ontario for upwards of a year, if not longer. The longer physicians wrongly believe that such practices are permitted and condoned, the harder it will be to root them out. We have warned doctors that they would use Ontario’s critical care triage protocol at their peril.
The discriminatory approach towards patients with disabilities enshrined in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol threatens dangerous consequences for patients with disabilities well beyond the context of overt critical care triage.
For more background, check out and widely share:
- The widely viewed captioned online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that explains the entire critical care triage protocol issue from a disability perspective, for those who don’t know the ins and outs.
- The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report that thoroughly details serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage protocol.
- The unanswered letters on the critical care triage protocol issue sent to the Ford Government’s Health Minister, including the AODA Alliance‘s letters of September 25, 2020, November 2, 2020, November 9, 2020, December 7, 2020, December 15, 2020, December 17, 2020, January 18, 2021, February 25, 2021, and April 26, 2021.
- The AODA Alliance website’s health care page.
2. Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release Regarding Online Renewals of Ontario Health Cards
The December 20, 2021, AODA Alliance news release correctly described how the Ford Government is engaging in obvious disability discrimination where it requires a person to have a driver’s license to renew their Ontario Health Card online. However, that news release incorrectly stated that a person who has an Ontario Photo Identification Card (created as official ID for those with no driver’s license) cannot renew that Photo Identification Card online. It turns out that one can renew the Ontario Photo Identification Card online at a Government web page designed for that purpose.
We regret the error. Accuracy of our news releases and AODA Alliance Updates is very important to us. We thank the AODA Alliance supporter who quickly contacted us to report to us the inaccuracy of our news release.
That inaccuracy in our original news release (which we quickly corrected on the AODA Alliance website) does not take away from the fact that the Ford Government needs to now remove the disability discrimination from its online process for renewing one’s Ontario Health Card and needs to publicly account for how it let this happen in the first place.