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Cutting wait times, delivering better health care in Ontario

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Universal public health care is a core part of what it means to be Canadian. It is the idea that no matter where you live or what you earn, you will always be able to get the care you need. Unfortunately, our health care system has not been living up to expectations. From overwhelmed emergency rooms to surgery backlogs to health care workers under enormous strain – Canadians deserve immediate action to deliver better health care, when and where they need it. That is why the Government of Canada is making transformative investments to improve how provinces and territories deliver health care across the country.

Today, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, alongside the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, announced a new $3.1 billion agreement to improve health care in Ontario. This investment will help increase access to family doctors, reduce wait times, hire more health care workers, and ensure faster care for Canadians, including mental health care.

Under this agreement, Ontario will continue to deliver on its Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care and create new primary care teams to help more people connect to family doctors. With more family doctors, as well as nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers, health teams will ensure families can access timely, quality primary care. This will also help reduce backlogs for surgeries and wait times in emergency rooms while improving access to care for patients without a family doctor, especially in rural, remote, and underserved areas.

To fill health care shortages, Ontario will add hundreds of new family physicians and nurse practitioners, as well as thousands of new nurses and personal support workers. Enrollment in health care education programs will be expanded by over 700 spots – including over 70 in Northern Ontario. To keep building the talent for the future, Ontario will support students with tuition fees, help practising professionals gain new skills, and bring more health workers into the field.

The agreement will also make it easier for Canadian and internationally trained doctors and health professionals to practise in Ontario, so they spend less time dealing with red tape and more time helping patients in need. This includes removing barriers to foreign credential recognition, simplifying licensing processes, and increasing program access for highly educated and skilled health professionals. The Province will modernize digital infrastructure – from information reporting, to collection, to sharing. By expanding the availability of electronic health information and increasing the number of health care professionals who can securely access and share this information, health care will be more convenient, connected, and patient-centred.

Mental health is a central pillar of this important investment. Ontario will add five new Youth Wellness Hubs to the 22 that have opened since 2020, making it faster and easier for youth to connect to much needed mental health and substance use services in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. The Province will also continue to expand its Structured Psychotherapy Program, helping thousands more Ontarians get timely help for depression or anxiety through free cognitive behavioural therapy and other related supports.

The federal and provincial governments will engage and work with Indigenous Peoples to address gaps and systemic inequities in Indigenous health care services and improve access to culturally safe care. Under the agreement, funds will go to Ontario’s Support for Indian Residential Schools Burials Funding program, which provides culturally safe mental health supports to Survivors of residential schools, families, and communities. As we move forward on the shared path of reconciliation, safe and timely health care is a priority for Indigenous communities.

This investment is part of the Government of Canada’s larger work to invest over $200 billion to improve health care, including funding through tailored bilateral agreements with provinces and territories. The agreement with Ontario is the fifth agreement announced, after British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. Through the agreement announced today, the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario will deliver better results for patients, support health care workers, and protect our health care system now and into the future.

Quotes

“Canadians value our universal public health care system, but recently this system hasn’t been living up to its promise. That’s why we’re signing agreements with provinces and territories to help ensure Canadians can access reliable, timely, and safe health care. Today’s agreement with Ontario will increase access to family doctors, reduce backlogs, increase the workforce, and make the health care system work better. Let’s give Canadians the quality health care they expect and deserve.”

 The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“This new ten-year agreement will help support our ongoing work in Ontario to connect more people to convenient care close to home. Right across the province, we’re making historic investments in health care to build more hospitals, bring on more doctors and nurses, expand home and community care, and reduce wait times. We look forward to continuing working with our federal partners to ensure Ontarians get the health care they need and deserve.”

The Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

“Making sure everyone in Canada can get health care when they need it is a big promise and it’s something Canadians deserve. People are relying on all levels of government to work together and address the challenges in front of us. Reaching this agreement and action plan is a significant step in our collaboration with Ontario to take measurable action to improve our health care system. Together with all provinces and territories, we will continue working to achieve better health outcomes for everyone.”

The Hon. Mark Holland, Minister of Health

“Today’s agreement demonstrates our steadfast commitment to making mental health and substance use services an integral part of our universal health care system. Through this agreement, Ontario will be able to deliver more integrated youth mental health and psychotherapy services to people throughout the province. We will continue to work together to ensure all Canadians have access to supports and services for their mental health and well-being – when they need them, wherever they need them.”

The Hon. Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

“Ontario is making historic investments to help improve the patient experience through Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care. As we continue to put our bold plan into action, today’s agreement will complement our ongoing work to ensuring Ontarians have unparalleled access to convenient care in their communities, no matter where they live.”

The Hon. Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health

“This agreement will provide welcome support for our ongoing work to rebuild and modernize Ontario’s mental health and addictions system. We are improving the quality of services across the province, lowering barriers to access, and collaborating with partners to develop innovative and culturally appropriate solutions to close gaps in care. Our government is building a continuum of care that is based on treatment and recovery, and we will continue to make effective, evidence-based investments that connect more people to crucial mental health and addictions supports, closer to home.”

The Hon. Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

Quick Facts

  • Today’s agreement reinforces Canada’s and Ontario’s commitment to protect Canadians’ access to health care based on need, not their ability to pay, as outlined in the Canada Health Act.
  • Ontario’s three-year action plan can be found here. Progress on the Province’s initiatives and broader commitments under this new agreement will be measured against targets which the Province, together with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, will publicly report on annually.
  • Budget 2023 outlined the Government of Canada’s plan to invest over $200 billion over 10 years, including $46.2 billion in new funding for provinces and territories, to improve health care for Canadians. Within this funding, $25 billion is allocated through tailored bilateral agreements with provinces and territories to address the unique needs of their populations and geography in four shared health priorities:
    • expanding access to family health services, including in rural and remote areas;
    • supporting health workers and reducing backlogs;
    • increasing mental health and substance use support; and
    • modernizing health care systems with health data and digital tools.
  • All provinces and territories are already making considerable investments to advance progress in all four priority areas, and this new federal funding is complementing and expanding those efforts.
  • As part of bilateral agreements, provinces and territories are asked to develop action plans that outline how funds will be spent and how progress will be measured to demonstrate to Canadians that improvements are occurring in Canada’s health care system.
  • The government is also working with provinces and territories to implement a second bilateral agreement focused on helping Canadians age with dignity close to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility.
  • In addition to tailored bilateral agreements, the federal government is supporting provinces and territories through:
    • Guaranteed Canada Health Transfer (CHT) increases of at least 5 per cent from 2023-24 to 2027-28 (amounting to $17.5 billion over 10 years in additional funding through the CHT); and
    • A one-time CHT $2 billion top-up to address the urgent needs of emergency rooms and paediatric hospitals, which was delivered in June 2023.
  • As part of its investment of over $200 billion over 10 years to improve health care for people in Canada, the Government of Canada is providing $2 billion for the new Indigenous Health Equity Fund to make further progress on Indigenous health priorities across the country.
  • The federal government works collaboratively and in partnership with Indigenous partners and communities to support improved access to high quality, culturally appropriate health services, greater Indigenous control of health services, and improved health outcomes. Each year, the government invests approximately $5 billion in Indigenous health.
  • Today’s announcement builds on the Government of Canada’s recent announcement that up to $86 million will be provided to 15 organizations across the country to increase capacity for foreign credential recognition of approximately 6,600 internationally educated health care professionals. This investment will help ensure highly educated and skilled immigrants receive proper recognition for their international credentials in Canada.
  • The Foreign Credential Recognition Program works with provinces, territories, regulatory bodies, and other organizations by funding projects to support faster and more efficient credential recognition systems with the goal of growing Canada’s economy, creating quality employment, and promoting a more sustainable health workforce.

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