Ontario Premier Doug Ford signed a $3.1 billion health care agreement with the federal government to increase access to primary care and reduce wait times.
The deal was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late Friday morning, making Ontario the fifth province to reach an agreement with Ottawa on its part of a $200 billion health deal.
The other provinces with agreements include British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Nova Scotia.
The announcement comes nearly a year after the two governments reached a 10-year agreement in principle to pay for health care in Ontario, with an additional $46 billion in funding for Canada Health Transfer.
Premiers have been calling on the federal government to increase its annual health transfers to cover 35 per cent of their health budgets, up from 22 per cent.
This kind of increase would have amounted to about $28 billion a year, with an additional five percent annually after that.
About a year ago, Ottawa said its bilateral agreement with Ontario included $8.4 billion and a one-time top-up of $776 million to address “urgent needs” in children’s hospitals and emergency rooms.
As part of the agreement, provinces had to agree to expand access to family health services, support health workers and reduce delays, increase support for mental health and substance use, and modernize their health systems. healthcare to include digital tools.
The $3.1 billion pledged Friday covers the first three years of this deal, ministry officials confirmed.
“For generations, universally accessible health care has been a fundamental part of what it means to be Canadian,” Trudeau told reporters. “It’s built on the promise that no matter where you live or how much you earn, you can always get the health care you need.”
Under the agreement, Ontario has committed to adding hundreds of new family physicians and nurse practitioners, as well as thousands of nurses and personal support workers to fill staffing shortages. The funds will also be used to remove barriers to internationally trained doctors, add five new Youth Wellness Centers and address gaps in Indigenous healthcare services.
Ford called the agreement “historic” and said it was about advancing priorities regardless of political leanings and would help fund specific programs.
“This new funding will reinforce the important work we are doing in Ontario,” he said.
“While we are pleased with our progress, we know there is more work to do. “That’s why today’s agreement is so important to strengthening our healthcare system.”
More resources needed, says medical association
The Ontario Medical Association said that while the funding announcement is welcome and has the potential to help with pressing issues, it is not enough to address “significant structural challenges” within the health-care system.
“As we address the most pressing issues, we must also ensure we have a stable, long-term funding formula to address the underlying issues in [the] system and construction for [the] future, knowing that we have an aging and more medically complex patient population,” OMA President Dr. Andrew Park said in a statement.
The OMA has been sounding the alarm for years, warning that 2.3 million people in Ontario lack a family doctor.
CUPE’s Council of Ontario Hospital Unions said last month that a survey showed two in five workers in the province had contemplated leaving their jobs and a similar number are afraid to go to work due to staffing shortages.