Advocating for fairness in rehabilitation service provision in Ontario


By Denise DuBois

Affordable access to rehabilitation in Ontario is a top priority in fulfilling patient-centred care in Ontario and requires input from rehabilitation researchers and practitioners, stressed Christine Elliott, former Progressive Conservative MPP and deputy leader and current Patient Ombudsman of Ontario, as she addressed students, faculty, and staff from the University of Toronto’s Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI).

From left, Roni Propp, graduate student and RSI Research Day Co-Chair; Dina Brooks, Graduate Coordinator; Angela Colantonio, Director of RSI; and Christine Elliott, Patient Ombudsman of Ontario.

One year ago, Elliott commenced her new role as Patient Ombudsman of Ontario. Unlike a Patient Advocate, who support patients in their communications and interactions with health care professionals, Elliott’s role is to consider and address system-wide challenges in Ontario.

Although she is not a Patient Advocate, Elliott has advocated on behalf of individuals with disabilities in many roles, including as a MPP, volunteer, and mother.

The Abilities Centre in Whitby is an example of one of Elliott’s past projects. The Centre aims to provide inclusive and accessible spaces for adults of all abilities to participate in social, educational, and physical activities.

Unfortunately, not all aspects of the health and social system represent the same level of access as the Abilities Centre. Appropriate rehabilitation services for certain patient groups, such as individuals with spinal cord injuries who rely on ventilators, are neither readily available nor affordable.

Including the perspectives of patients and practitioners within rehabilitation science is one way in which communication and service provision can be improved, according to Elliott. Yet, at present there are no rehabilitation practitioners working in Elliott’s office who may provide key insight into current rehabilitation challenges. Elliott’s address to the University of Toronto’s Rehabilitation Sciences Institute may act to bridge communication between government officials and the rehabilitation community.