CARP takes on ‘Home First’ Program

Home First is a health initiative designed to be “an approach to care that starts the discussion, upon admission to hospital, about the best place and the options available to patients and families upon discharge (when their acute care treatment is complete) as opposed to leaving this discussion until the end of their hospital stay.”

It is an initiative of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network. However, CARP has received complaints from members who alleged that they have received shocking treatment at the hands of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington.

CARP member reports overall were consistent with several newspaper reports that family members “felt pressured to take loved ones home to free up hospital beds,” according to the Hamilton Spectator. For example, Ms. Marilyn Flook said the hospital made her feel “irresponsible and unloving” for not talking her 88 year old bedridden mother home. However, she was reassured that this would not be the case, only after her plight was covered in the Hamilton Spectator.

In response to the public pressure that has been mounting over this issue, the CEO of the hospital released a press release on July 22, 2009, indicating that it would review the program. According to hospital CEO, Eric Vandewall:

“It is unacceptable to us that any patient or family member feels pressured to make decisions on the setting and ongoing care they receive after being discharged from hospital. This was never our intention and we apologize to patients and family members who felt this way. We also apologize for not communicating fully and clearly enough about the Home First care approach to our patients and families, and community stakeholders.”

Click here to read a copy of Eric Vandewall’s press release.

CARP has written to Mr. Vandewell on behalf of its members. “From the viewpoint of our members, the expectation is that no patient will be discharged without being given a reasonable opportunity and assistance to find alternative accommodation or home care and other supportive services,” writes Susan Eng, VP of Advocacy for CARP.

While CARP is appreciative of the challenges of reducing wait times, such initiatives should not be realized on the health and well being of Ontario seniors. CARP hopes that in reviewing Joseph Brant’s Homes First initiative, it can find a way to improve upon wait times without putting pressure on seniors.

Click here to view a copy of Susan Eng’s open letter to Eric Vanderwall.