Complaints about inappropriate or poorly planned discharges from Ontario hospitals are among the top areas of concern the province's new patient Ombudsman is monitoring, according to preliminary figures her office compiled for The Globe and Mail.
Christine Elliott, the former Progressive Conservative MPP turned health-care referee, said that about 60 per cent of the more than 1,500 complaints her office has received since opening last July revolve around allegedly subpar communication from officials in the hospital, long-term care and home-care sectors.
But miscommunication is a problem that permeates complaints of all kinds, she added, including those about discharges from hospital, which are in the office's top five categories of complaint, alongside objections about waiting times, overcrowded hospitals and access to care in remote parts of the province.
"We have heard of situations where people do feel pressured to make decisions [about leaving hospital] and really don't feel that they're being treated as an individual or a human being – that they're just a number and a bed blocker and they need to be moving out," Ms. Elliott said.
The Globe and Mail reported earlier this week on the case of an 88-year-old widower whose son says a Markham hospital pressured his father to leave, threatening to charge the elderly man $1,100 a day or drop him by ambulance at a homeless shelter.
The Markham Stouffville Hospital, north of Toronto, eventually relented and moved the octogenarian to a transitional care unit, but the incident underscores the pressure that hospitals in the province are under as more elderly patients with complex, chronic conditions fill acute-care beds they no longer require.