As the realities of COVID-19 settle in, Ontarians are coming to recognize the specific challenges that face their immediate future. For many, the changes to daily life brings fears and concerns about finances, health and wellness, and mental health. For people with developmental disabilities and their families, these concerns grow when they consider the impact of lost supports and programming, and the added risks of visiting hospitals and medical facilities for vulnerable people.
With these growing concerns have come growing efforts to advocate and invite families to stand together to ask for better and more appropriate support from the provincial and federal governments. The first uniting crisis came in early April, when ARCH Disability Law Centre identified concerns with Ontario's COVID-19 Triage Protocol.
The resulting "Open Letter: Ontario's COVID-19 Triage Protocol" raised grave concerns that the triage protocol de-prioritized access to critical care for some patients due in part to their disability, despite the fact that this is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Over 200 disability and community organizations and over 4800 individuals signed the open letter, which also submitted recommendations for Ontario Health's consideration.
In the midst of concerns around access to critical care for Ontario's most vulnerable populations have risen additional concerns around the ability of caregivers to accompany loved ones into medical facilities. As more and more medical institutions shutter their doors to visitors, family caregivers have begun to ask whether they will also be denied entrance when a loved one becomes seriously ill and requires medical attention in hospitals.
A new open letter by Family Alliance Ontario requests, among other recommendations, that Ontario mandate that children and adults with disabilities be permitted to have a close family member or trusted support person accompany them while in hospital to receive medical care. The letter also recommends that individuals with disabilities and their families have equitable access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), greater flexibility and support through ODSP and Passport/Special Services at home funding, and further assistance to family networks to create greater connection and social supports for families.
This letter, released today, can be signed and endorsed by organizations and individuals between now and April 23, 2020 at 3pm.
The Ontario Government's open letter response regarding Ontario's COVID-19 triage protocol confirms that Ontario Health has been advised to consult with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and that the triage protocol is still only a draft document. However, there continues to be little clarity around the standards by which critical care would be accessible to patients if our health care and intensive care facilities become overwhelmed by COVID-19.
"Open Letter: A CRISIS UNFOLDING COVID-19 Impacts on Families Caring for Vulnerable People with Disabilities at Home." Google Doc. April 17, 2020. Family Alliance Ontario. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddNjZxJZfxekUWUEBJpKgwNAeJjgFb7GGx_h-goK_r1MO7ew/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1
"Press Release – Government Response indicates Ontario Health is Engaging in Consultation with Human Rights and Key Community Experts on the Triage Protocol." Article. April 22, 2020. ARCH Disability Law Centre. https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-government-response-indicates-ontario-health-is-engaging-in-consultation-with-human-rights-and-key-community-experts-on-the-triage-protocol
"Press Release – Open Letter from Major Disability Organizations Calling on the Ontario Government to Ensure People are not Deprioritized from Accessing Critical Care Because of their Disability." Article. April 8, 2020. ARCH Disability Law Centre. https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-open-letter-from-major-disability-organizations-calling-on-the-ontario-government-to-ensure-persons-are-not-deprioritized-from-accessing-critical-care-because-of-their-disability
"Submission: Open Letter – Ontario's COVID-19 Triage Protocol." Article. April 8, 2020. ARCH Disability Law Centre. https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/resource/open-letter-ontario-covid-19-triage-protocol