By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative
Equal treatment for all.
That’s what local agencies — who represent people with disabilities — are asking for when it comes to treatment for COVID-19.
According to Tammy Chouinard there are no clear-cut government guidelines when it comes to treating the disabled.
The oversight has officials worried that in a worst case scenario that would see an influx of COVID-19 patients, the disabled will triaged to the back of the line.
“We don’t want anyone to be denied critical care based on an assessment of quality of life,” says the community relations manager of Community Living Chatham-Kent.
Chouinard is calling the lack of legislation a “human rights issue” — one that has the potential to affect one in seven Canadians.
There are approximately 1.85 million people with disabilities in Ontario.
Community Living Chatham-Kent currently supports 550 clients with intellectual disabilities, while Community Living Wallaceburg serves an additional 400.
According to Chouinard, the government laid out an ethical protocol for triaging patients at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 but walked it back in early November.
It hasn’t been replaced, she adds, which has led to fear and uncertainty.
“When the hospitals are full they are going to have to decide who to care for first,” she explains, adding a policy should be in place so the isn’t resting solely on the healthcare provider.
COVID-19 is putting pressure on the healthcare system. As intensive care units fill to capacity triage decision have to be made about who gets treatment.
Agencies across the province have banded together on the issue and the Ontario Human Rights Commission has asked the government to publicly release current triage protocols.
It’s been reported Ontario’s Bioethics Table submitted an updated triage protocol in September, but its contents have yet to be revealed.
Chouinard says the lack of clarification is unacceptable and is urging concerned citizens to make their concerns known to government leaders and healthcare professionals.
“We’re want to advocate and ensure every one gets equal treatment,” she notes. “We don’t want people with disabilities to be discriminated against because of bias or stereotypes.”
Community Living Chatham-Kent, DeafBlind Ontario Services and Participating Housing Supports and Services have formed an alliance. They are asking the public to put pressure on MPP’s to release the document and hold open consultation on the issue.