The change Hepburn speaks of commenced December 10, when the province announced the appointment of Christine Elliott, the former deputy leader of the Conservative Party, as the Ontario’s first Patient Ombudsman. In her new role – which was created as part of Bill 8, the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014 – Elliott will be charged with helping “meet the needs of patients who have not had their concerns resolved through existing complaint mechanisms.”
As any medical malpractice lawyer can tell you, patients trying to seek damages from or communicate complaints against Ontario’s healthcare system are entering a David and Goliath scenario. With any luck, the institution of the Patient Ombudsmen position will begin to level the playing field.
The province announced the beginning of the selection process for the new role in July 2015. Elliott, who quit electoral politics following her failed bid for the Conservative leadership, was selected from a field of nearly 400 potential candidates. Her appointment will come into effect at the beginning of July.
“Christine’s Elliott’s advocacy for vulnerable people, extensive knowledge of the health care system, and commitment to the betterment of this province make her the perfect choice for Ontario’s first Patient Ombudsman,” said Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins, in a release. “I am delighted that she agreed to put her name forward for this critical role as we work to put patients first by improving both the quality of our health care system and the patient experience.”
Elliott was a tough critic of the Liberals during her time in the legislature, and her willingness to decry the government’s deficiencies in delivering medical service to Ontarians is part of what won her the position. She has been a vocal advocate for improved treatment of stroke victims and people with disabilities, and worked closely with the Liberals and New Democrats on bipartisan efforts to add the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 2012, in an effort to prevent discrimination against transgendered people. She is highly thought of in all three parties.
Her role as Patient Ombudsman will present new challenges, though, as she works to resolve complaints from patients, residents of long term care facilities, and caregivers. She will also have the responsibility of investigating health sector organizations on her own initiative and providing recommendations to organizations under investigation.
“I feel honoured to have been chosen as the province’s first Patient Ombudsman and am so pleased to be able to continue to serve Ontarians in this new role,” Elliott said in a release. “Ensuring that patients in Ontario’s health care system will now have a strengthened voice is a responsibility I am looking forward to taking on.”
Advocates for Canadian patients and medical malpractice lawyers are also feeling optimistic following the appointment. “There is much to be done in alerting the public and the minister to where patients fall through the cracks and get bad outcomes,” said Chair of Patients Canada Michael Decter. The hope is that Ms. Elliott will be able to provide non-partisan guidance for the government as a whole.
Medical errors and negligence are still common issues in Ontario’s hospitals, doctors’ offices, and community care facilities. If you have been injured due to medical negligence, you should immediately contact a medical malpractice lawyer from Neinstein. You may be entitled to compensation.