• Stephen Lecce, MPP

Ontario Investing $741 Million to Reduce Surgeries Backlog and Expand Access to Care

The Ontario government is investing $741 million to help clear the backlog of surgeries and build more capacity in the health care system to effectively manage surges and outbreaks in COVID-19 cases. This is part of the province's COVID-19 fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19. The plan will help the province quickly identify, prevent and respond to any scenario in order to protect communities. Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "The last thing patients and families should have to worry about right now is the cancellation of their surgery or procedure due to the second wave of COVID-19," said Premier Ford. "We are moving mountains to make sure all patients get the top-notch care they deserve, while clearing the backlog of surgeries. At the same time, we are preparing for any future surge or outbreak in order to keep everyone safe and healthy." "Expanding access to care to help reduce health service backlogs is part of our plan to ensure that we are ready for future waves of COVID-19," said Minister Elliott. "This investment is essential to help more patients waiting for surgeries and other procedures get the care they need faster and help reduce the burden on our system.To ensure that the health system is prepared to respond to any surges of COVID-19 without interrupting routine health services, we are also increasing capacity inhome and community care and expanding digital and virtual health care services."

Accelerate Efforts to Reduce Health Service Backlogs To support the health care system as it works to reduce surgical backlogs and improve access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario has already taken the following actions:

  • Released A Measured Approach to Planning for Surgeries and Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a comprehensive framework to help hospitals assess their readiness and begin planning for the gradual resumption of scheduled surgeries and procedures, while maintaining their ability to respond to COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season; and

  • Invested in virtual care providing alternatives to in-person care that limit the transmission of COVID-19, while maintaining access to care.

Ontario is making the necessary investments to expand access to services and surgical and procedural backlogs by:

  • Investing up to $283.7 million to support additional priority surgeries including cancer, cardiac, cataract, and orthopaedic procedures;

  • Extending diagnostic imaging hours at health care facilities forMRIs, CT scans, and other critical procedures;

  • Adding an additional 139 critical care beds and 1,349 additional hospital beds in hospitals and alternate health facilities across the province to support more surgical procedures; and

  • Working to initiate a centralized waitlist and a program to optimize the use of the operating roomsto improve the use of existing resources and increase the number of surgical procedures in hospitals by hundreds on average per year, and improve patient flow by leveraging available surgical capacity in each region.

Prepare for Surges in COVID-19 Cases Ontario is also preparing to respond to any potential surges of COVID-19 without interrupting the delivery of routine health care services. For this reason, the government is investing $457.5 million to increase community capacity, including home and community care, to help reduce pressure on the health care system and expand the delivery of care. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the government has already taken necessary action to provide easier and faster access to care:

  • Enhanced access to virtual care so more patients can see their doctor by phone or video through the creation of temporary fee schedule codes;

  • Provided over 240,000 virtual visits for nursing and rehab home care services since the COVID-19 outbreak began;

  • Invested $26.75 million to address further demand for mental health and addictions services by enhancing community-based services for vulnerable populations, expanding virtual mental health and addictions services, and supporting Indigenous communities to meet the growing needs in their communities in a culturally safe way;