- Stephen Lecce, MPP
Ontario Introduces A Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery
TORONTO — The Ontario government introduced its Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery, a five-point plan to provide the best care possible to patients and residents while ensuring the resources and supports are in place to keep the province and economy open. The plan further bolsters Ontario’s health care workforce, expands innovative models of care and ensures hospital beds are there for patients when they need them.
“When we released our first Plan to Stay Open in March 2022, we made a promise to build an Ontario that is ready for the challenges of tomorrow because we can no longer accept the status quo,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “The second phase of our plan will provide the support our health system needs to address the urgent pressures of today while preparing for a potential winter surge so our province and economy can stay open.”
When fully implemented, this next phase of the Plan to Stay Open will add up to 6,000 more health care workers. Combined with the initiatives included in the first phase of the plan that are adding 13,000 more staff, the two plans together are adding 19,000 more health care workers, including nurses and personal support workers, to Ontario’s health workforce. It will also free up over 2,500 hospital beds so that care is there for those who need it, and expand models of care that provide better, more appropriate care to avoid unnecessary visits to emergency departments.
The next phase of Ontario’s Plan to Stay Open also temporarily covers the costs of examination, application and registration fees for internationally trained and retired nurses, so they can resume or begin caring for patients sooner. Some key highlights of the plan include:
Preserving our Hospital Capacity
To further bolster the fight against COVID-19 and help stop its spread, the government is continuing to provide access to testing for COVID-19, Paxlovid and Evusheld therapies for treatment for those who are eligible, with plans on expanding eligibility for Evusheld for high-risk populations in the coming weeks.
COVID-19 and flu shots will also continue to be provided to Ontarians so they can stay up to date with their vaccinations to protect themselves and reduce the number of hospitalizations due to respiratory illnesses.
Free rapid antigen tests will continue to be available to the general public at participating grocery and pharmacy retailers throughout the province as well as for workplaces, schools, and congregate settings.
Providing the Right Care in the Right Place
Ontario is expanding the hugely successful 9-1-1 models of care to include additional ailments and is now giving paramedics the flexibility to provide better, more appropriate care. Patients diverted from emergency departments through these models received the care they needed up to 17 times faster with 94 per cent of patients avoiding the emergency department in the days following treatment.
Ontario is implementing several initiatives to help avoid unnecessary hospitalizations, improve the process for ambulance offloading, and reintroduce respite services in long-term care.
Ontario is introducing legislation that, if passed, will support patients whose doctors have said they no longer need hospital treatment and should instead be placed in a long-term care home, while they wait for their preferred home.
Ontario continues to fund community paramedicine to provide additional care for seniors in the comfort of their own homes before their admission to a long-term care home. These initiatives will free up to 400 hospital beds.
Further Reducing Surgical Waitlists
Timely access to surgery is important for keeping patients healthy and reducing pressure on the health care system in the long-term. That is why the government is investing over $300 million in 2022–23 as part of the province’s surgical recovery strategy, bringing the total investment to $880 million over the last three fiscal years.
Ontario is working with hospital partners to identify innovative solutions to reduce wait times for surgeries and procedures, including considering options for further increasing surgical capacity by increasing the number of OHIP-covered surgical procedures performed at independent health facilities.
Ontario is investing more to increase surgeries in paediatric hospitals and existing private clinics covered by OHIP, as well as to fund more than 150,000 additional operating hours for hospital-based MRI and CT machines.
Easing Pressure on our Emergency Departments
Ontario is also launching a new provincial emergency department peer-to-peer program to provide additional on-demand, real-time support and coaching from experienced emergency physicians to aid in the management of patients presenting to rural emergency departments.
Ontario is adding 400 physician residents to support the workforce in northern and rural Ontario.
Ontario is working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to expedite the registration of doctors, including those from out-of-province and who may want to work in rural and northern emergency departments, so they can start working and caring for patients sooner.
Further Expanding Ontario’s Health Workforce
Ontario is working with the College of Nurses of Ontario and Ontario Health to expand funding for the supervised practice experience partnership program which has already supported over 600 international nurses in getting licensed since January. The province anticipates that by the end of the fiscal year another 400 international nurses will gain the practice and language requirements necessary to work in Ontario.
The Ontario government is also working with the College of Nurses of Ontario to reduce the financial barriers that may be stopping some retired or internationally trained nurses from receiving accreditation to resume or begin practicing by temporarily covering the cost of examination, application, and registration fees, saving them up to $1,500.
The province is aware that agency rates have increased significantly, creating instability for hospitals, long-term care homes and emergency departments. In response, Ontario will engage with our frontline partners to better understand how we can bring stability to hospitals and emergency departments, while protecting quality of care.
As actions in this plan are implemented in the coming weeks and months, Ontarians can expect to see faster access to health care, including lower wait times in emergency departments, lower wait times for surgical procedures and more care options right in their communities. Ontario will also significantly reduce the risk of a hospital bed shortage during a possible winter surge so that the province and economy can stay open.
“Expanding specialized supports for people with complex needs and supporting the transition from hospitals into long-term care, when appropriate, are key pieces of our government’s Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery,” said Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care. “We are taking action to get Ontarians the right care in the right setting, where they can have the best possible quality of life, while freeing up much-needed hospital beds.”
"We are committed to working with our system partners to deliver on this plan and support front line health care workers," said Matthew Anderson, President & CEO of Ontario Health. “This plan provides both immediate and long-term strategies that will allow us to respond to current challenges and better integrate the system for the future."
Since the start of the pandemic Ontario has taken immediate action to ensure we can continue to manage COVID-19 and prepare for the long term.
Ontario has processed over 25 million lab-based COVID-19 PCR tests and distributed close to 240 million free rapid antigen tests to date.
Ontario has administered over 34.5 million COVID-19 vaccinations to date.
Over 36,000 doses of Paxlovid have been prescribed to protect Ontarians against the worst effects of COVID-19, helping to reduce hospital admissions.
Ontario has invested $880 million in surgical recovery investments over the last three fiscal years, including increasing surgical capacity through funding for innovative hospital projects.
To strengthen long-term care and alternate levels of care, Ontario has invested $175.2 million to expand home care services and $117 million for sustainability of home care services, and $1 million to inter-facility transfer of medically stable patients in Northern Ontario.
The Ontario government has approved new patient care models, giving paramedics more flexibility to treat and refer patients when responding to 911 calls.
Over 10,900 health care professionals (including over 7,800 nurses and externs) have been added to the health system since Winter 2020.
The government has invested $764 million to provide Ontario’s nurses with a retention incentive of up to $5,000 per person.
If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccine, please contact the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY for people who are deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired: 1-866-797-0007), which is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and capable of providing assistance in more than 300 languages.
For more information about treatment options, contact your primary care provider, visit a clinical assessment centre, or call Health Connect Ontario at 811 or 1-866-797-0007 (toll-free TTY) for more information on treatments, assistance, or eligibility for virtual care options.
"Our health care teams – at Sunnybrook and across Ontario – have been working very hard and effectively, under difficult conditions, and we are very proud of them. To address the ongoing challenges we face, we join the government in taking bold and creative actions, to ensure that we can continue to best take care of Ontarians and their families"
- Dr. Andy Smith President and Chief Executive Officer of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
"Today’s announcement is great news for Ontario hospitals. These measures address one of our biggest system challenges – the ability to transition patients who no longer require hospitalization into appropriate care spaces. These changes will provide faster access to care, positively impact quality patient outcomes, and improve the patient experience."
- David Graham CEO (interim), Scarborough Health Network
"The nursing crisis is deepening – yet there are thousands of internationally trained nurses (IENs) residing in Canada who have been waiting years for regulatory registration. RNAO commends the government’s intention to accelerate the integration of IENs as one of the urgent actions required to address the nursing crisis. We will continue to partner on programs to retain, recruit and build careers for nurses in our province."
- Dr. Doris Grinspun CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)
"The Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) appreciates the announcement from the Hon. Sylvia Jones, Minister of Health, and welcomes the ongoing leadership and support from the province to enable local public health and the health care system’s ongoing response to the pandemic."
- Trudy Sachowski
"The province has properly diagnosed the pressures on the health system. The challenges being felt by hospitals are connected to similar challenges in home care and long-term care as well. What we see with today’s announcement is government beginning to build health care capacity in the community, which is exactly what Ontarians want and need."
- Sue VanderBent CEO of Home Care Ontario
"The Ontario Association of Radiologists welcomes the government's announcement to further reduce surgical and diagnostic waitlists. MRI is central to the detection and management of diseases, including cancer, strokes, cardiac disease, and sports injuries. By addressing MRI infrastructure, MRI wait times worsened by the pandemic will become more manageable. Diagnostic and Interventional Radiologists remain committed to working alongside the government and Ministry to provide high-quality diagnostic care to Ontario patients."
- Dr. David Jacobs, President Ontario Association of Radiologists
"The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) supports the strategy announced today by the Government of Ontario for the Fall and Winter 2022/23 as it will help maintain access to health services during what is expected to be a challenging period. It is essential that all partners continue to work closely together with a ‘Team Ontario’ approach to overcome the complex, underlying issues facing the healthcare system. Hospitals are here to serve the people of Ontario and will continue to do everything possible to meet their health service needs."
- Anthony Dale, President and CEO Ontario Hospital Association
"The Ontario Medical Association supports the initiatives announced today by the government, which are aligned with our roadmap for the future, Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. Strengthening collaboration with government, doctors and other health-care stakeholders is critical to resolving the unprecedented pressures on Ontario’s health-care system. No one group can do this alone, we must work together."
- Allan O’Dette CEO OMA