The Ontario Government’s 2021 Triage Policy

  • March 11, 2021
  • Khalid Mahdi

With the second-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic placing an increased strain on hospitals across Canada, the provincial government earlier this year released a highly controversial triage policy aimed at helping the healthcare system adapt (link). The triage policy works by assessing and placing patients in a colour-coded framework based on their risk of short-term mortality, which is defined as “survival beyond 12 months after the onset of critical illness.” You can read more about the triage policy here (link).

At a time when persons with disabilities are already experiencing significant challenges with daily life, the triage policy places these individuals at risk of not being prioritized for the life-saving care that they would need in the event of an emergency. Over the past few months, disability advocacy groups such as the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance (link) and the ARCH Disability Law Centre (link) have criticized and spoken out against the new policy.

In January 2021, it was revealed (link) that the was seeking an Executive Order to suspend parts of the Health Care Consent Act (HCCA). Under the HCCA, doctors require the consent of their patients, or from their substitute decision-makers (SDMs), in order to withdraw treatment. Under the Executive Order, doctors would be permitted to withdraw treatment from a patient without the consent of the patient or their SDMs. As a result, these SDMs or personal representatives would be excluded from the medical process, while doctors would be allowed to make calls based on their own opinions. Such an order would remove the voice of those who cannot advocate for themselves in making health care decisions.

These policies are particularly dangerous for persons with disabilities. They need to be re-thought of in terms of human rights principles and the dignity interests of all Canadians. In a recent letter (link), the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has called on the Ford government to quickly move to develop “frameworks and protocols for triage decisions that are consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code” before a potential third wave of COVID-19 grips the province.  The OHRC has further called on the government to make public and consult human rights stakeholders on the latest versions of the triage framework before they are finalized.

Bakerlaw has extensive experience supporting Canadians with disabilities in accessing social and health services, as well as those in hospital or long-term care. You can learn more about what we do here (link).  If you have concerns regarding your rights or are concerned about a loved-one in long-term care or hospital please contact us (link) to see if the bakerlaw team can assist you.





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