COVID-19: Update on Triage Protocol

In March 2020, the provincial government appointed a Bioethics Table responsible for creating the March 28 COVID Clinical Triage Protocol (“Protocol”). This protocol outlined how hospitals in Ontario should decide whom to refuse critical care to if there is a lack of resources due to a major surge in the COVID-19 pandemic. The full version of the Protocol can be found here. There was an outcry by disability communities and advocates that highlighted problematic and discriminatory aspects of the Protocol against people with disabilities.

There was widespread rejection of this protocol, particularly by self-advocates, families, and members of the disability community related to concerns that people would be denied care because of their disability.  On October 30, 2020, the Ontario Human Rights Commission wrote an open letter to the Minister of Health requesting that the Protocol be disregarded, and that a new framework be introduced in accordance with human rights and not disproportionately affect groups protected under the Human Rights Code. The open letter can be found here.

In November 2020, the provincial government announced in Legislature that the Triage Protocol was rescinded and would be of no effect. It further stated that no hospital in Ontario would be following the Protocol. It also mentioned that it may send a new critical care triage protocol to health providers in the future if conditions deteriorate significantly.

Currently, the provincial government has not made any new guidance document available to the public. It is not clear how doctors and healthcare workers will be making difficult decisions about who should be refused critical care, if required. It is also not clear whether there are any measures in place to prevent discrimination on the ground of disability. Disability advocate organizations have urged the provincial government to ensure accountability for how decisions are made during resource shortages. This is especially important as COVID-19 cases continue to rise during the second wave.

PooranLaw will continue to monitor developments related to the Triage Protocol and provide updates on our website. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.

Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.