Federal government signs $3.1 billion health deal with Ontario

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Ontario will spend $3.1 billion in federal health-care funds to increase access to family doctors, reduce backlogs and add more health-care workers, the premier and premier announced Friday as they formalized a one-way health agreement. decade long.

The funding covers three years of the $8.4 billion, 10-year agreement the federal government reached in principle last year with the province, part of a total of $198.6 billion in health funding nationwide. Ontario is the fifth province to officially sign its part.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the money will help alleviate pressures facing health systems across the country.

“Access to family doctors and nurse practitioners is not what it needs to be,” he said at a news conference.

“Emergency rooms are overwhelmed. People wait too long for surgeries and healthcare workers… are under immense pressure, working in incredibly difficult conditions. That is why we are focused on addressing those challenges.”

Premier Doug Ford said Ontario has made progress in reducing wait times and increasing access to primary care, but there is still more to do.

“This $3.1 billion investment will be used for specific initiatives to continue strengthening our health workforce, improve access to family health services, improve mental health and addictions programs, and expand access to digital health,” said.

“It will help ensure that people across Ontario continue to receive the high-quality, convenient care they need when they need it.”

The Ontario Nurses Association questioned the optimistic statistics presented at the news conference by Ontario Premier and Health Minister Sylvia Jones, including the number of new nurses in the province.

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“If we have so many new nurses, why is Ontario seeing hundreds of emergency departments continue to close due to nursing shortages?” President Erin Ariss wrote in a statement.

Ontario’s auditor general found in a report late last year that between July 2022 and June 2023 there were 203 temporary emergency department closures across the province.

Amid that strain on the system, one in five patients who visited emergency rooms were only there because they didn’t have a family doctor and didn’t need urgent care, the report found.

According to the Ontario Medical Association, 2.3 million people in Ontario do not have a family doctor, and the association predicts that number will double within two years.

“Ontario physicians welcome this funding that will help address their most pressing issues,” OMA President Dr. Andrew Park wrote in a statement.

“While we address the most pressing issues, we must also ensure we have a stable, long-term funding formula to address the system’s underlying problems and build for the future, knowing that we have an aging and more complex patient population from the beginning. medical point of view.”

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The OMA said it expected Ottawa to increase the federal share of health care costs from 22 per cent to 35 per cent, as the provinces had urged. The agreement raises the percentage to 24 percent.

Many of the items Ontario has committed to using the funds for are previously announced multi-year programs, and officials say they will help the province build on what’s already in place.

The province says $30 million a year will help create more primary care teams, including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and social workers.

Ontario says it will also spend $69 million a year to help internationally trained health professionals, including expanding a program that allows internationally trained nurses to work in the province more quickly and launching a program to rapidly assess whether an international doctor can practice immediately.

In addition, the province has agreed to allocate $40 million a year to expand medical school enrollment, with 60 per cent of postgraduate seats dedicated to family medicine and 71 seats specifically at the Northern College of Medicine. Ont.

All provinces that accept the agreement must also work to modernize their health data systems, starting with making patient records more accessible and transferable between jurisdictions.

Provinces must measure their progress against targets set by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and publicly report that progress each year.

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