Published March 26, 2024

Billions of dollars of new funding for health care in Ontario budget

Health Minister Sylvia Jones speaks with media at Queen’s Park in Toronto on September 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

By Liam Casey

Ontario is set to inject billions of new dollars into health care, the budget for the upcoming fiscal year shows.

The province said it is investing $2 billion over three years in home care services, nearly $1 billion more for hospitals and hundreds of millions to expand primary care coverage.

"Ontarians are also counting on us to maintain a strong health-care system now and for future generations," said Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy as he released the budget on Tuesday.

The province previously committed $1 billion over three years as part of its reforms for home and community care, which sees care providedat home or in a community setting by nurses, personal support workers and others.

"I don't know many people who don't want to age at home with their loved ones in familiar surroundings," Bethlenfalvy said.

The finance minister said the new money for home care will be spent on increasing compensation for nurses, personal support workers and other front-line home care providers. 

"A big chunk of this money is going to supporting the wages and recruiting and retaining more health-care workers so they can take care of people where they want to be taken care of," Bethlenfalvy said.

Home care agencies have struggled to attract and retain nurses and personal support workers because there is more pay for those professions in hospitals and long-term care homes.

Home Care Ontario, which represents agencies that provide about 28,000 health-care workers who are sent to people's homes, applauded the new funding.

"Today's historic investment in the province's home care system is great news for Ontario seniors," said Sue VanderBent, CEO of the organization. 

"With growing demands on our health system from a rapidly aging population, this increased funding will help ensure more Ontarians can get the health care they require in the most appropriate setting – at home."

The province is also expanding its primary care teams. 

Last month, the government said it would spend $110 million for the upcoming year to help connect 300,000 Ontarians to a primary care team. Those teams are composed of health professionals who work together, including doctors, nurse practitioners, registered and practical nurses, physiotherapists, social workers and dietitians.

The budget said the government will invest an additional $446 million over three years on its primary care expansion strategy. 

"This funding will support connecting approximately 600,000 people to team-based primary care through new and expanded interprofessional care teams," the budget said.

The Ontario College of Family Physicians says 2.3 million residents are without a primary care doctor, a number it says will double by 2026.

In an effort to boost the number of family doctors in the province, the government said it is investing in a new medical school, at York University in Vaughan, that will focus on family physicians. 

"This will be the first medical school in Canada primarily focused on training family doctors," the budget said. 

The province has also set aside a "significant investment" to create 700 new educational spots for medical radiation and imaging technologists, medical laboratory technologists and technicians.

Hospitals across Ontario are also set to receive $965 million more this year, a four-per-cent increase in base funding compared to the year prior.

"This investment also includes funding for stabilization and management of the surgical system, with a focus on maximizing capacity to increase the number of surgeries performed," the budget said.

The province is also putting up $500 million over 10 years for small hospital projects and community health programs, plus $620 million over 10 years for a "health infrastructure renewal fund" to replace infrastructure including roofs, windows and security systems.

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie said the government wasn't doing enough on health care.

"This is a do-nothing budget. It's doing nothing to help Ontarians achieve affordability measures. It's just a smokescreen," she said.

"There are people going to private clinics and paying with their credit cards because this government refuses to invest in our health-care system."

Banner image: Health Minister Sylvia Jones speaks with media at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Sept. 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

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