“With Ombudsman oversight, people will have access to an independent investigator; a third party that can listen to them, investigate and get to the bottom of issues,” said Gélinas in a press release. “Life and death events happen in our health-care facilities every day. People will finally be able to get answers and gain closure.”
The bill would be a game-changer for patients across the province, she said. Currently, the only oversight mechanisms at most front-line health-care organizations are internal, or left to the Ministry of Health, “and we frankly know that this isn’t cutting it.”
Currently, the Ombudsman does not have oversight of most front-line health-care organizations, including hospitals, retirement homes, long-term care facilities, ambulance services, and more. This means that when patient complaints cannot be settled internally, there is no one else to appeal to and to look at systemic problems, Gélinas said.
Ontario is the only province that does not have ombudsman oversight of hospitals or long-term care facilities, she added.
“Ensuring that complaints are investigated independently and impartially must be a priority. Ontarians should have somewhere to turn if something goes wrong in the care they receive. We all win when our health-care system improves.”
The bill was created in response to numerous unanswered complaints and the petitions, activism and social media awareness campaigns that these individuals launched, according to a press release.
“It is frankly astounding that our hospitals, which provide an essential public service and receive billions of dollars of public funding each year, continue to escape the scrutiny of my office,” said the province's ombudsman, André Marin.
“Unfortunately, Ontario remains the only province in Canada whose ombudsman has no mandate to investigate services provided by public hospitals. There is no effective, independent, investigative oversight of hospital administration, period.”
Marin said in the press release that he's hopeful the province will eventually follow the rest of Canada and open the door to ombudsman oversight of hospitals.
“It need only look at the positive results we have achieved in working together in so many other areas. It would improve hospital accountability, certainly. Even better, it would improve lives.”
A Sudbury couple is also on a mission to bring independent oversight to Ontario municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals, known collectively as the MUSH sector. The same kind of oversight is also needed for children's aid societies, long-term care facilities and the police, urges Neil and Tabatha Haskett, who lead the Sudbury chapter of the Ontario Coalition for Accountability.
The group, which often holds rallies in the Greater Sudbury area, is pushing for the ombudsman to have the right to investigate complaints in these areas.
“I know some amazing foster parents, I know some good doctors, and all my experiences in the hospital have been outstanding,” Neil said.
“We know these front-line people do provide some great services, but every once in a while, somebody does make a mistake. Management, more often than not, doesn't seem willing to allow that to be dealt with properly, if at all.”
That's where Marin should come in, he said.
With files from Heidi Ulrichsen