New ombudsman will help with patient concerns: health minister

TORONTO — The family of a woman who believes she is being discharged from a Toronto rehab facility too early feel they have nowhere to turn.

Barbara Butler’s discharge date from the Lyndhurst Centre looms near and her family is fighting the decision.

Butler needs extensive rehab to recover from paralyzing complications after routine surgery last year, and the family believes budget restrictions are trumping what’s best for her.

“I see empty beds in the facility and you say well, why does she have to leave when you have empty beds?” said Monika Watters, Butler’s sister.

“They say they don’t have the staff anymore to be able to fill the beds. There’s no money to have more staff, they cant have more patients.”

University Health Network, which runs the Lyndhurst Centre, denied interview requests.

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READ MORE: GTA woman says she is being discharged from hospital early against her wishes

However, in a statement emailed to Global News, they said that the facility is running at capacity.

“Patients aren’t discharged because of budget or occupancy, but because their active, high intensity rehab is finished and their needs can be met by another organization or support at home,” a spokesperson said in an email.

Butler’s family said she isn’t ready to go home, and the only other option is their local hospital where she won’t get the specialized therapy she needs. They pointed out there are others in the same situation.

“My sister is a prime example,” said Watters, “there’s nothing available for her to go to.”

The Ministry of Health said it doesn’t track patient complaints about hospital discharges, and so couldn’t say if it’s a growing problem.

The health minister said each case is up to the doctor.

“Physicians do it based on clinical guidelines and clinical evidence,” said Eric Hoskins.

READ MORE: Ontario NDP say budget freeze is forcing hospitals to lay off nurses

But a group trying to give patients more of a voice in the system said they are hearing more and about early discharges from patients.

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“People are being discharged early, and in worse condition, and that’s partly the pressure to admit other people, said Michael Dector, board chair of Patients Canada.

The Health Ministry confirmed if a patient feels they shouldn’t be discharged they can go to a patient advocate at their hospital, but after that they have no other recourse.

That will change with the creation of a patient ombudsman, according to Hoskins.

“If the patient ombudsman has a concern — maybe hospital-specific, maybe systemic — they will have the ability then to look at that issue more broadly,” he said.

The position has been posted, but it is expected to be some months before the office is up and running.

Meanwhile, Butler’s discharge is scheduled for Oct. 27. Her sister said she’s worried about how Butler will cope if she’s forced to go.

“It would completely crush her. Her spirits would just drop. It would be horrible, it would be absolutely horrible.”

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