Feds investing $3.1B over 3 years to alleviate Ontario health-care crisis

Tammie Sutherland speaks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of his announcement with Premier Doug Ford on a $3.1-billion health-care funding deal for Ontario.

By Patricia D'Cunha and Laura Carney

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday the federal government is giving Ontario $3.1 billion in funding over the next three years aimed at easing the health-care crisis in the province.

Ontario is the fifth province to sign on for its share of the $200-billion health accord Trudeau offered to the provinces last year.

Under the agreement, the Ford government has committed to spending that money on creating new primary care teams and boosting access to family doctors.

The investment will “help Ontario increase access to primary care, reduce wait times for surgeries and for seeing specialists, hire more health-care workers, ensure people have access to the mental health care they need, and improve health care for Indigenous peoples,” Trudeau said, alongside Premier Doug Ford, at a news conference in King City on Friday morning.

As part of the deal, Ontario is expected to add “hundreds of new family physicians and nurse practitioners, as well as thousands of new nurses and personal support workers.”

Ford said he will use some of the federal money to help reduce wait times at hospital emergency rooms, which is one of the recent issues plaguing the province’s health-care system.

“I’m going to be zoned in on these emergency departments … I’ll put the money in that is needed,” he said at the announcement.

The Ford government also said part of the money will also go towards improving mental health for all Ontarians, including adding five new Youth Wellness Hubs to the 22 that have opened since 2020, and expanding its psychotherapy program to those living with depression or anxiety.

The agreement will also make it easier for Canadian and internationally trained doctors and health professionals to practise in Ontario.

The province will also be expected to modernize their health data systems by making patient records more accessible and transferable between jurisdictions.

While the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) welcomed the funding deal, it said the money isn’t nearly enough to fix the province’s ailing health-care system.

“Ontario’s doctors supported Premier Doug Ford’s previous call for the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer from 22 per cent to 35 per cent of provincial-territorial health-care spending. This agreement doesn’t reach that number,” the OMA said in a statement.

According to the OMA, 2.3 million Ontarians don’t have a family doctor and that number is expected to nearly double in two years.

Trudeau asked about Ontario’s private delivery of health care

In an exclusive interview with Breakfast Television on Friday, reporter Tammie Sutherland asked Trudeau if there are any conditions on the new funding, given that last year the province passed legislation to move some publicly-funded procedures to private, for-profit clinics.

“At the core of every dollar the federal government sends to Ontario or any other province needs to be a commitment to maintain our public health-care system,” Trudeau said. “We need to make sure that everywhere across the country the quality of services, the speed of services has no influence by someone’s socioeconomic level or income level.”

When asked if he has concerns with the province’s move to have some publicly-funded procedures in private clinics, Trudeau didn’t specifically mention Ontario, but said in the past, the federal government has “pulled back transfers from provinces that have gone too far down the privatization road.”

“We have increasingly seen particularly Conservative premiers across the country experimenting with more private services … we need to make sure the integrity of the Canada Health Act and the strength of our publicly-funded health-care system holds.”

Trudeau said the health-care funding deal with the province will be reviewed after three years to ensure it met the needs of Ontarians.

“This $3.1 billion boost investment we’re giving over the next three years will be renewed or renegotiated three years from now and we will look very carefully at how this was delivered, whether it made real differences, whether they hit the markers or not,” he said.

“There are there are checks and balances in the system to make sure those improvements happen.”

The new money comes almost a year after the federal government reached a 10-year agreement in principle with the province on a new health-care deal.

The shortage of workers is one of the issues plaguing the province’s health-care system.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the union representing some health-care workers in the province, said the province is facing staffing crisis that could only get worse if the province doesn’t step in.

Union leaders say the province needs to invest an additional $1.25 billion annually over the next five years to help improve staffing levels and boost capacity.

With files from Michael Ranger and The Canadian Press

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