In doing research for my book, I found the Ontario Bill of Rights for those living in Long-Term Care (LTC). Every Resident — Bill of Rights for people who live in Ontario long-term care homes(PDF1642KB) September 2008 An explanation of each right in the Bill of Rights for residents of nursing homes, and municipal and charitable homes for the aged in Ontario. It lists places to turn to for help, including the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE), and the service area offices of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
In visiting a friend, I turned up a couple of times and found that the door had a sign saying that due to an influenza outbreak, they were not allowing visitors. I also volunteer for Hospice, and these visitors are similarly turned away by a notification on the door.
In contacting the Ministry of Health and LTC, I was informed that this is illegal. The Bill of Rights [A1. 11(9)] states:
This is a right, not a privilege. The only time visitors can be barred, and an institution can officially restrict visitors from entering a LTC facility, is at the point when the Ministry of Health
Quarantine can occur when there is a risk of infection, (e.g., MRSAs, or other Superbugs, or an infestation of scabies*). But it is a process that requires an order by a Medical Officer from the Health Unit. A Public Health Officer may declare that with a flu outbreak, visitors should be monitored, swabs may be taken and visitors need to be managed. But visitors cannot be denied entry into a facility.
If a LTC facility has an outbreak of influenza, it is up to the facility to provide extreme containment measures, such as masks, and handwashing stations, and visitors my be only restricted to the resident's room. Group activities may be halted - some homes have excellent organized programs with volunteers and/or children and pets visiting. This is a different order of activity and only makes sense to limit such groups.
If you think you are being restricted from visiting a loved one, you can approach the Administration and cite this Ministry standard. Every resident has the right to communicate and consult visitors in private.
What strikes me is that we have no idea how many LTC homes and retirement homes have repeated infections of this magnitude. Homes that are quarantined are tracked, but this illegal closing, that violates the rights of residents and their families, is not monitored since it is an impromptu, home-specific decision.
Some homes, when a resident is taken out for a dinner or special occasion, tell the family that the resident will not be readmitted due to the flu but this, too, is illegal. Know your rights.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * Scabies, also known as the itch, is a contagious ectoparasite skin infection characterized by superficial burrows and intense pruritus (itching). It is identifiable by a rash, and itching expecially difficult for failing seniors who scratch until the sores bleed.
Senior's publications by Community Legal Education Ontario ( CLEO ): Elder Abuse: The Hidden Crime(PDF409KB) October 2008 This booklet describes the different types of elder abuse, the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, why it happens and why it is seldom reported. It also includes information on how to get help and support, and lists resources available in communities across Ontario.
Every Resident — Bill of Rights for people who live in Ontario long-term care homes(PDF1642KB) September 2008 An explanation of each right in the Bill of Rights for residents of nursing homes, and municipal and charitable homes for the aged in Ontario. It lists places to turn to for help, including the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE), and the service area offices of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.