Ontario NDP Presses the Ford Government to Lift the Veil of Secrecy on Key Documents Addressing How Life-and-Death Medical Triage Decisions Will be Made if the Second Wave of COVID-19 Exceeds Ontario Hospital Capacity

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

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Ontario NDP Presses the Ford Government to Lift the Veil of Secrecy on Key Documents Addressing How Life-and-Death Medical Triage Decisions Will be Made if the Second Wave of COVID-19 Exceeds Ontario Hospital Capacity

September 30, 2020

The Ford Government is enshrouding far too much secrecy around its approach to what will happen if the second wave of COVID-19 infections overloads Ontario hospitals, i.e. if there are not enough critical care beds to accommodate all the patients in critical condition. This could become a truly life and death issue.

The Ford Government’s March 28, 2020 critical care medical triage protocol is still in place. It has still not been made public by The Government. The Government has not rescinded it. It sets the rules on how hospitals will decide who will be refused critical care, if critical care beds need to be rationed. That protocol is itself infected with very troubling disability discrimination.

For over two weeks, The Government has had in hand the recommendations of The Government-appointed Bioethics Table on how The Government should change that medical triage protocol. That report is also now being kept secret. The AODA Alliance and other disability advocates tried to convince the Bioethics Table to remove from the triage protocol the serious disability discrimination in it. We don’t know what the bioethics table ended up recommending, or if they took the corrective actions we urged.

Last Friday, September 25, 2020, the AODA Alliance wrote Health Minister Christine Elliott to ask that the veil of secrecy over these documents be lifted. The Government has not answered that letter.

The pressure on The Government to release these important documents is increasing. The Ontario New Democratic Party’s critic for disability issues Joel Harden submitted two formal written questions to the Ford Government’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott in the Ontario Legislature. Those questions are posted on the Legislature’s website. These important questions are:

“Question 247:

Mr. Harden (Ottawa Centre) on September 30, 2020

Enquiry of the Ministry — Would the Minister of Health make public, and in an accessible format, any critical care triage protocol that is issued by The Government, or Ontario Health, or any other provincially-mandated authority in the health care system, regarding medical triage decisions regarding critical care.

Question 246:

Mr. Harden (Ottawa Centre) on September 30, 2020

Enquiry of the Ministry — Would the Minister of Health immediately make public, and in an accessible format, any report and recommendations by the Bioethics Table regarding the protocol to be used on clinical care triage so that Ontarians may know what is being planned and recommended in the case of a COVID-19 surge, particularly regarding access to critical medical care for people with disabilities.”

It may not answer our letter, but The Government must answer these questions. Here is what the Legislature’s website says about the duty of The Government to answer such questions:

“The Government must file a response within 24 sessional days of the tabling of the question. The response is delivered to the Clerk of the House and to the MPP who tabled the question.”

Please contact your member of the Ontario Legislature. Urge them to demand that The Government make public the current critical care triage protocol, and the report and recommendations on this topic by The Government-appointed Bioethics Table.

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance final written submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table.
  1. The April 8, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government on the medical triage protocol spearheaded by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, of which the AODA Alliances one of many co-signatories
  1. The April 14, 2020 AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities
  1. The May 13, 2020 ARCH Disability Law Centre’s Analysis of the March 28, 2020 Triage Protocol, which the AODA Alliance endorses.
  1. The July 16, 2020 AODA Alliance Update that lists additional concerns with the revised draft triage protocol. That Update also sets out the Ford Government Bioethics Table’s revised draft triage protocol itself.
  1. The ARCH Disability Law Centre’s July 20, 2020 brief to the Bioethics Table on the revised draft triage protocol and ARCH’s September 1, 2020 final submission to the Bioethics Table, both of which are endorsed by the AODA Alliance.
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing our efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.