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Home care agencies sue Ontario over Wynne government plan

Home care patients will be put at risk by the Wynne government's move to create a new provincial agency, claims a lawsuit by 11 publicly funded home-care providers.

Lawsuit claims 'patients at risk' by move to create new provincial home-care provider

Agencies that provide 95 per cent of all publicly-funded home care services in the province are asking the courts to quash the Wynne government's move to create Personal Support Services Ontario, a provincial organization that would employ personal support workers directly. (The Associated Press)

Home care patients will be put at risk by the Wynne government's move to create a new provincial agency, claims a lawsuit by 11 publicly funded home-care providers.

CBC News has learned that the home-care providers — including the Victorian Order of Nurses and Bayshore HealthCare Ltd. — are suing the province to try to halt the creation of the government-run agency. 

The agency, Personal Support Services Ontario, would become the exclusive provider of home-care workers to a select group of patients across the province. PSSO would take over some of the services currently performed by the private home-care agencies involved in the lawsuit.

The move "puts home care patients at risk by giving exclusive authority for self-directed care services to an untested provincial government agency," says a document filed Monday in Ontario Superior Court, obtained by CBC News.

The legal document, a request for judicial review, claims the government's creation of the agency "will have dire consequences for patients and their families, for Service Providers and their employees and for the home care and health care systems at large." 

The 11 agencies are asking the court to quash the move by Health Minister Eric Hoskins to establish PSSO on the grounds that he made the decision "in secret" and "acted recklessly" by not consulting home-care providers.  

"The decision to introduce an untested home care delivery model, centred on an Agency with no track record, without consulting key stakeholders in the home care sector jeopardizes Ontario home care patients," says the application for judicial review. 

The home care agencies allege in court documents that Health Minister Eric Hoskins made the decision to create PSSO "in secret" and "acted recklessly" by not consulting them on the move. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The claims in the legal document have not been tested in court and the government has not yet had an opportunity to file its response. 

More than 700,000 people in Ontario currently receive publicly funded home care. The 11 organizations suing the government are contracted to provide that home care and say they account for 95 per cent of the services in the system.

The new agency's creation was revealed by CBC News last fall. The government says it will give home-care clients more choice in selecting a personal support worker and more control in determining their care schedule. 

But there are critics who question whether a government agency will be better at providing home care than the smaller non-profit organizations and for-profit firms who've been doing it for decades. 

The home-care providers who filed the court case said the new agency "would not be capable of servicing the thousands of Ontario patients who depend on personal support workers for critical home and personal support services."

The government indicated the agency would "initially" provide personal support workers only to clients who receive a high volume of publicly-funded home care, at least 14 hours per week, which would mean just 6,000 patients. 

But the legal document alleges the scope of the agency would eventually mean it serves 30 to 40 per cent of the caseload.

The providers allege that while the government did not consult with them on the move, it did "work closely" with the Service Employees International Union, which represents home-care workers under the banner SEIU Healthcare. 

"It would appear the decision was made for the improper purpose of creating a single body of PSWs that could be unionized by SEIU Healthcare," say the providers in their court filing. 

The document also states that the government announced its decision to create the agency around the time that a group called Working Ontario Women launched SEIU-funded attack ads against the then-leader of the Progressive Conservative party, Patrick Brown. 

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.