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Government of Ontario Announces Three Step Plan to Reduce Surgical Backlog

Published on
January 16, 2023

Today Premier Doug Ford and Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, announced a three-part plan to reduce surgical and diagnostic wait times and help clear the surgical backlog. The announcement took place at Kensington Eye Institute.

The three-part plan includes the following:

Step 1 – Target cataract surgeries: The government will add 14,000 additional cataract surgeries each year through partnerships with surgical and diagnostic centres in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.  According to the government announcement, this represents up to 25 percent of the current cataract waitlist.

Step 2 – Expand the scope of surgical and diagnostic centres to address regional needs: Focus areas will include cataracts as well as MRI and CT imaging, and colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures. Community surgical and diagnostic centres licensed under the Independent Health Facilities Act currently perform approximately 26,000 OHIP-insured surgeries and procedures a year.

Step 3 – Introduction of Legislation:  In February, government will introduce legislation that if passed will:

  1. allow existing community diagnostic centres to conduct more MRI and CT scanning.
  2. strengthen oversight of community surgical settings to ensure high standards for quality and safety and continue to expand access to more surgeries and further reduce wait times.

The government also plans to expand surgeries for hip and knee replacement starting in 2024 at community surgical and diagnostic centres.

The Premier and Minister Jones both emphasized that the status quo is not working and that bold, creative and innovative action is needed in the health care system. Both also underscored that these are publicly funded services paid for by OHIP, never credit cards, likely wanting to counter a potential opposition narrative about the privatization of the health care system.

This announcement comes on the heels of previous health-related measures in which the government foreshadowed the need to take pressure off the already burdened hospital system and create capacity in the community, such as the August 2022 introduction of the government’s Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery. This August announcement included investing more to increase surgeries in existing private clinics covered by OHIP.

These changes announced today are expected to be permanent in nature rather than temporary solutions to address imminent challenges in the system.

The government’s news release notes that there are currently 206,000 people in Ontario estimated to be waiting for surgical procedures compared to about 209,000 patients waiting for a hospital operating room-based surgical procedure in Ontario last fall and about 200,000 before the pandemic.

Additional information

  • The government’s media release can be found here.
  • The full press conference can be viewed here.
  • Further information on surgical wait times is available here.

Happy to help.

Please feel free to reach out to our team to learn more about this announcement and what it may mean for you.

Sadaf Abbasi, Director


Brian Zeiler-Kligman, Vice President, Ontario Government Relations


Paul Pellegrini, Executive Chairman


Robyn Gray, Principal & Environment Practice Lead


Amanda DeYoung, Associate, Ontario Government Relations


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