Ford government releases a nearly $3 billion fall preparedness plan

Government says plan has been in the works for months, opposition disagrees

The Ford Government has handed down its much-discussed Fall Preparedness Plan, after hinting at its release for weeks.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Wednesday his government is committing $2.8 billion to this plan, with aims to ensure the province’s health care, long-term care, and education systems are prepared for teh immediate challenges presented by COVID-19 this fall. Called Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, the plan focuses on six key areas:

Maintaining strong public health measures; Ontario has dog-eared $1.376 billion towards enhancing and expanding testing, tracing, and isolation efforts. It is hoped this funding will help reduce testing backlogs and support existing assessment centres.

Implementing the largest flu immunization campaign in the province’s history; nearly $70 million is being committed to purchasing and distributing flu vaccines, along with $26.5 million to obtain additional vaccines if needed. Flu vaccines help reduce emergency department visits and wait times, and preserve hospital capacity for any surges in COVID-19 patients.

Quickly identifying, managing, and preventing COVID-19 outbreaks; the province is devoting $30 million to combat outbreaks across Ontario.

Accelerating efforts to reduce health service backlogs; Over $283 million will be put towards assisting the health system’s efforts to reduce surgery backlog, funding such initiatives as extending hours for priority surgery or diagnostic imaging, increasing the number of critical care beds in some areas, and supporting alternate health facilities across the province.

Preparing for surges in COVID-19 cases; nearly $457.5 million is going towards ensuring the health system is prepared to respond to any waves or surges of COVID-19 without otherwise interrupting routine health services. This includes expanding digital health and virtual services, expanding access to mental health and addiction services, and adding over 480,000 nursing and therapy visits.

Recruiting, retaining, training, and supporting healthcare workers; the province previously announced its $52.5 million push to bring over 3,700 more frontline healthcare workers into Ontario’s healthcare system.

“For months, our government has been developing one of the most robust and comprehensive COVID-19 fall preparedness plans in the entire country,” said Premier Ford.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says this plan was too hastily thrown together. “It’s completely unacceptable. They should have been doing this work back in June, back in July. Everybody predicted there was going to be a second wave, everybody knew that long-term care was particularly vulnerable, and yet it seems like the government did nothing but hit the campaign trail.”