Ontario Launching New $30 Million Surgical Innovation Fund
June 23, 2021
TORONTO — The Ontario government is launching a new $30 million Surgical Innovation Fund that will directly support Ontario’s hospitals and provide them with the flexibility they need to perform more surgeries and procedures in their communities. This fund is part of the government’s investment of $300 million announced in the 2021 Budget to help the hospital sector recover, expanding access to care and helping to reduce the health service backlog due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Throughout the pandemic, Ontario’s hospitals have been unwavering in their commitment to ensuring that Ontarians receive the exceptional care they need, when they need it,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This new fund will support hospitals across the province as they develop the innovative solutions needed to continue to provide high quality care and ramp up surgical capacity, reducing wait times and improving access to surgical services for patients.” At the height of the third wave of the pandemic, Ontario made the difficult but necessary decision to ramp down non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries in order to maximize the health care resources needed to ensure that patients who most urgently needed care could access it. As Ontario begins to safely reopen, it is anticipated that referrals for surgeries and procedures will begin to increase. Thanks to the resilience and dedication of Ontario’s hospitals, as well as government initiatives such as funding supports for weekend and evening surgeries, the delivery of publicly funded surgical and diagnostic imaging services in alternate settings and investments in improving surgical efficiency and output, Ontario’s hospitals are well-positioned to tackle this challenge. Despite the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on inpatient capacity, Ontario hospitals were able to complete on average 88 per cent of their targeted surgical allocations this past year. The new $30 million Surgical Innovation Fund is a proposal-based funding opportunity that will support hospitals in all regions of the province to address barriers to surgeries that cannot be addressed by other existing hospital funding streams, including training for more operating room nurses, equipment and technology supports, and small capital projects to leverage existing spaces to provide additional operating room output. All hospitals across Ontario are eligible to submit their proposals through their Ontario Health Region by July 21, 2021. Working with Ontario Health, the Ministry of Health will review proposals from hospitals and approve projects according to a set of guidelines, including impact on increased surgical and procedural capacity, alignment with surgical recovery priorities such as local wait times, and long-term utility to create lasting impacts for sustained surgical output increases. Joint collaborations between local hospitals and proposals from Ontario Health Teams are also welcomed to maximize both regional collaboration and surgical care pathways, and transitions of care. Funding for approved projects is anticipated to be released in early Fall 2021 for immediate implementation this year. “The recovery of our health system is vitally important to Ontarians,” said Matthew Anderson, President & CEO of Ontario Health. “As we work to restore care, we will build on the collaborations that have been established during the pandemic and ensure our approach focuses on the entire continuum of care that connects patients requiring surgical services.” It is critical that Ontarians continue to seek care when they need it and that they contact their health care team if they require urgent care. The government continues to work closely with health system partners to explore additional measures and ensure patients and their families have access to the high-quality care they need, when they need it.
Over 465,000 scheduled surgeries took place in Ontario’s hospitals in 2020-2021. Access to urgent lifesaving surgeries was preserved during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In areas less impacted by COVID-19, hospitals were able to do more surgeries in November and December than they had in previous years, delivering important surgical care to Ontarians, while reducing wait times for patients to have the procedures they need. As a result of improvements in hospital capacity, the volume of surgeries being completed in Ontario has increased by approximately 20 per cent a week since non-urgent surgeries resumed in May. Surgical output has reached nearly 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Based on the latest modelling data, COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, hospitalizations and ICU occupancy have significantly dropped due to the collective efforts of Ontarians. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province have decreased by 23.7 per cent between June 14 and June 20, 2021.
Under the 2021 Budget, Ontario is investing an additional $1.8 billion in the hospital sector in 2021-2022, bringing the total additional investment in hospitals since the start of the pandemic to over $5.1 billion. This includes creating more than 3,100 additional hospital beds to increase capacity and reduce occupancy pressures caused by COVID-19.
As part of the province’s $2.8 billion fall preparedness plan, the government has invested $283.7 million to assist the health system’s ongoing efforts to reduce surgical wait times, and $457.5 million to ensure that the health system is prepared to respond to any waves or surges of COVID-19 without interrupting routine health services.
Ontario Health Teams are helping to maintain hospital capacity by coordinating programs that link hospitals, primary care, home and community care services, long-term care homes, congregate settings and other services, as well as supporting virtual care, online appointment booking and patients' digital access to their health information.
"The Ontario Hospital Association welcomes the creation of the Surgical Innovation Fund to help hospitals recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, ensure timely access to care in the communities they serve, and reduce wait times for surgical procedures. Ontario hospitals appreciate the Government of Ontario’s recognition of the need for continued investment in the hospital sector. The hospital sector has been the anchor of the COVID-19 response and hospitals have been committed to doing everything they can to keep Ontarians safe. Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come and ongoing innovation and financial support will be vital to supporting hospitals and maintaining access to health care services post-pandemic." - Anthony Dale President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association
Visit Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine web page to view the latest provincial data and information on COVID-19 vaccines.
Visit Ontario’s COVID-19 information website to learn more about how the province continues to protect the people of Ontario from the virus.
For public inquiries call ServiceOntario, INFOline at 1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free in Ontario only).