The COVID-19 pandemic placed significant pressures on hospital and health care resources, requiring the government to take extraordinary measures to maximize capacity and ensure that Ontarians can continue to have access to safe, high-quality health care. Thanks to the ongoing efforts and dedication across the health care system as well as targeted government initiatives, 76 per cent of patients who were waitlisted for required surgery between March 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021 have received the care they need.
Throughout the pandemic, urgent surgical patients were prioritized and 99.3 per cent of the most urgent patient surgeries were completed. As the province continues to safely and gradually lift public health measures, it is anticipated that referrals for surgeries, procedures and diagnostic imaging will increase similar to what has been seen in other provinces and jurisdictions.
Now, the Ontario government is investing up to $324 million in new funding to enable Ontario’s hospitals and community health sector to perform more surgeries, MRI and CT scans and procedures, including on evenings and weekends, as part of a wider, comprehensive surgical recovery plan to provide patients with the care they need. This plan will enable Ontario’s health care system to perform up to 67,000 additional surgeries and procedures as well as up to 135,000 more diagnostic imaging hours to address wait times for surgeries and procedures, improve access to care and support the government’s commitment to end hallway health care.
Yesterday, Ontario reached an exciting milestone in our vaccine rollout with 80% of Ontarians aged 12 and over having now received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This brings us one step closer to exiting Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen and easing the majority of public health measures.
The province entered Step Three of the Roadmap on July 16th, and will remain in Step Three of the Roadmap for at least 21 days and until 75% of the eligible population aged 12 and over have received their second dose. In addition, no public health unit must have less than 70% of their eligible population aged 12 and over fully vaccinated, and other key public health and health care indicators must also continue to remain stable.
Upon exiting the Roadmap, the vast majority of public health measures, including capacity limits, will be lifted. Only a small number of measures will remain in place, including the requirement for passive screening, such as posting a sign, and businesses requiring a safety plan.
As the Delta variant is the dominant strain in Ontario, which is not the case with some other provinces, face coverings will also continue to be required for indoor public settings. This is consistent with other jurisdictions such as Quebec and Israel, and the CDC recently updated their recommendation that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in locations with high COVID-19 transmission rates. The Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to evaluate this need on an ongoing basis.
The Ontario government is investing more than $62 million this year to build capacity among service providers to deliver high quality clinical services for children and youth receiving support through the needs-based Ontario Autism Program (OAP).
The Autism Workforce Capacity Action Plan, part of the province’s $600 million annual investment in the program, will expand access in rural and remote communities, provide new training for clinicians and allow service providers to hire and train new staff and support more families. These investments will enable the province to continue inviting and onboarding more children and youth into the needs-based OAP.
Stabilizing the workforce through new initiatives like the $14 million Workforce Capacity Fund which will support projects led by public and private service providers that improve access to core clinical services such as hiring new clinical staff, increasing hours for existing clinical staff or supporting service provider travel to serve children in rural or remote communities.
Enhancing skills and training by investing in new opportunities for more than 7,000 clinicians, including Indigenous Cultural Competency Training and mental health training to help build the workforce and enhance the knowledge and skills of clinicians.
Strengthening oversight by regulating behaviour analysts as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario and expanding the OAP Providers List of qualified clinicians which will promote consistency, professionalism, and safe, high-quality service delivery across the province.
Expanding access for rural, remote, Indigenous and francophone populations including funding for pilot projects that are building service capacity in northern Ontario. This will build on a new partnership between 15 public and private agencies in the north who are coordinating services to ensure children in the region are receiving support based on their needs.
Our government knows that getting outside is not only the best way to enjoy our beautiful province, but also has positive benefits for your mental and physical well-being. As part of the Healthy Parks Healthy People movement, we are challenging people and families across the province to join the Ontario Parks 30x30 Challenge! Grab your friends, neighbours, dogs and more and spend 30 minutes outside every day for 30 days in the month of August, starting on August 1, 2021. We encourage you to share your journey on social media using the hashtags: #30x30Challenge and #HPHP (healthy parks, healthy people). For a full list of provincial parks that you can enjoy, visit OntarioParks.com.
My constituency office is open Monday to Friday from 10AM to 4PM. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to drop by. Please note that you must have a face-covering to enter and capacity is limited to 2 people at a time. In efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we encourage you to continue to contact us at (416) 781-2395 or email [email protected]. We remain ready to assist.