October 3, 2022

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Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones’s plan to stabilize the health-care system includes increasing surgeries performed at private clinics but covered by OHIP, covering the exam and registration fees for internationally trained nurses, and sending patients waiting for a long-term care bed to a home not of their choosing.

The plan comes as nursing staff shortages have seen emergency departments across the province close throughout the summer for hours or days at a time.

On long-term care, the government plans to introduce legislation today that will allow patients awaiting a bed to be transferred to a “temporary” home while they await space in their preferred home. It’s also taking 300 beds that had been used for COVID-19 isolation and making them available for people on wait lists.

However, Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said the legislation would not force anybody who doesn’t want to leave the hospital to go, nor would it make “any changes to the priority waiting list.” 

Calandra also said the legislation would “allow us to continue the conversation” of moving patients temporarily to homes when they no longer require hospital care but their preferred long-term care home has not yet become available.

WATCH | Ontario health minister outlines 5-point plan to improve care:

Ontario health minister outlines 5-point plan to improve care

Health Minister Sylvia Jones says Ontario’s new plan to improve health care will add workers, improve innovation and expand the number of available hospital beds.

But NDP health critic France Gélinas said the province would be better off bolstering the home-care system with more full-time personal support workers. 

“Giving people the choice of where they want to be is to respect them,” she said. “Now, hospitals will have the right to put a ton of pressure on you and on your family to move you to the first bed available, not the bed of your choice… This is disrespectful, this is not the way health care should be.”

Gélinas suggested the first available beds would likely be “in a private, for-profit home,” some of which were the subject of a scathing military report in 2020 after suffering some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the province.

More of a role for privately delivered services

In the provincial document, there is mention of “mandatory guidelines used by placement coordinators to ensure patients continue to stay close to a partner, spouse, loved ones or friends.”

Language in the document suggests more of a role for privately delivered but publicly covered services, with the government saying it will invest more to increase surgeries in pediatric hospitals and existing private clinics covered by OHIP. It is also considering options for further increasing surgical capacity by increasing the number of those procedures performed at “independent health facilities.”

Jones said Ontario needs to be “bold, innovative and creative” when looking for ways to improve the health system.

“There are some who will fight for the status quo no matter what,” she said at a news conference announcing the plan.

“They’re ideologically opposed to change or improvements. We won’t accept that. We can’t accept that. People want better health care.”

The plan also includes modifying a program that can deploy nurses full-time across multiple hospitals in a region, and expanding a program for mid-to-late career or retired nurses to mentor newer nurses.

Ontario to cover exam, registration fees for some nurses 

The province will temporarily cover the exam, application and registration fees for internationally trained and retired nurses, saving them up to $1,500, and plans to invest up to $57.6 million over three years to increase the number of nurse practitioners working in long-term care homes.

Jones said she is expecting a plan today from both the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, as well as the College of Nurses of Ontario, on how they intend to expedite the applications of those professionals still waiting to be accredited and licensed in Ontario.

“There are many pieces that are part of this plan and they aren’t done,” Jones told reporters.

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