Today, the Government of Ontario introduced the Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery. The 18-page Plan was released by Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s Minister of Health, and Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care. This announcement is intended to acknowledge the critical pressures being felt in the provincial health system, including stressed emergency departments, and staff shortages.
The government also tabled Bill 7 – More Beds, Better Care Act, 2022 for first reading in the Ontario Legislature. The Bill amends the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021.
Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery
The Plan released today is meant to build on the first Plan to Stay Open that was released in March 2022, which included measures such as the “Learn and Stay Grant,” a $5,000 retention bonus for nurses, and a permanent raise for personal support workers.
The new Plan includes five key initiatives that the government believes will ensure the best care for Ontarians while having the right resources in place to do so, especially as the province faces a potential winter surge of COVID-19 and flu cases.
1. Preserving our Hospital Capacity
- Continued access to testing for COVID-19, Paxlovid and Evusheld therapies for treatment for those who are eligible, with plans on expanding eligibility for Evusheld for high-risk populations in the coming weeks
- COVID-19 and flu shots will also continue to be provided to Ontarians so they can stay up to date with their vaccinations
- Continued access to free rapid antigen tests at participating grocery and pharmacy retailers throughout the province as well as for workplaces, schools, and congregate settings
2. Providing the Right Care in the Right Place
- Expansion of the 9-1-1 models of care to include additional ailments and to give paramedics more flexibility around how they can deliver care to patients
- Implementation of several initiatives to help avoid unnecessary hospitalizations, improve the process for ambulance offloading, and reintroduce respite services in long-term care
- The introduction of legislation that, if passed, will support patients whose doctors have said they no longer need hospital treatment and should instead be placed in along-term care home, while they wait for their preferred home (more detail below)
- Continued funding of community paramedicine to provide additional care for seniors in their own homes before their admission to a long-term care home
3. Further Reducing Surgical Waitlists
- Investment of more than $300 million in 2022–23 as part of the province’s surgical recovery strategy, bringing the total investment to $880 million over the last three fiscal years
- Identify innovative solutions with hospital partners to reduce wait times for surgeries and procedures, including considering options for further increasing surgical capacity by increasing the number of OHIP-covered surgical procedures performed at independent health facilities
- Increase surgeries in paediatric hospitals and existing private clinics covered by OHIP, as well as to fund more than 150,000 additional operating hours for hospital-based MRI and CT machines
4. Easing Pressure on our Emergency Departments
- Launch a new provincial emergency department peer-to-peer program to provide additional on-demand, real-time support and coaching from experienced emergency physicians to aid in the management of patients presenting to rural emergency departments
- Addition of 400 physician residents to support the workforce in northern and rural Ontario
- Expedite the registration of doctors through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, including those from out-of-province and who may want to work in rural and northern emergency departments
5. Further Expanding Ontario’s Health Workforce
- Work with the College of Nurses of Ontario and Ontario Health to expand funding for the supervised practice experience partnership program
- Work with the College of Nurses of Ontario to reduce the financial barriers that may be stopping some retired or internationally trained nurses from receiving accreditation to resume or begin practicing by temporarily covering the cost of examination, application, and registration fees
- Ontario will engage with frontline partners to better understand how stability can be attained by hospitals and emergency departments as it pertains to increased agency rates
When the Plan is fully implemented – which is intended to take place over the coming weeks and months – the government indicated it will lead to the addition of up to 6,000 more health care workers, and free up over 2,500 hospital beds, in addition to lower wait times in emergency departments and for surgical procedures, and care options.
The Plan has received support from a number key Ontario health stakeholders, including the Ontario Hospital Association, the Registered Nurses of Ontario, and Home Care Ontario.
Following the announcement, concern was voiced by the New Democratic Party MPP Doly Begum, who said “…privatizing our healthcare means most Ontarians will wait even longer for care as remaining staff are poached from the public system to work in for-profit clinics.”
Bill 7 – More Beds, Better Care Act, 2022
The government tabled Bill 7 for first reading, which, if passed, would amend the Fixing Long-Term Care Act to allow senior patients in hospitals waiting to be placed in a long-term care home to be transferred to an alternative facility, potentially in a different community, until their preferred spot opens.
Per the Bill’s Explanatory Note, this new provision authorizes certain actions to be carried out without the consent of these patients; these actions include:
- Having a placement co-ordinator determine the patient’s eligibility for a long-term care home, select a home and authorize their admission to the home;
- Having certain persons conduct assessments for the purpose of determining a patient’s eligibility;
- Requiring the licensee to admit the patient to the home when certain conditions have been met; and
- Allowing persons to collect, use and disclose personal health information, if it is necessary to carry out the actions.
Certain limitations apply. The actions cannot be performed without first making reasonable efforts to obtain the patient’s consent.
Other minor amendments to the 2021 Act are also proposed, along with a consequential amendment to section 47 of the Health Care Consent Act, 1996 to clarify the relationship between crisis admissions under that section and admissions under the new provision of the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021.
Happy to Help
Please feel free to reach out to our team with any questions about today’s announcement, and what it may mean for you.
Robyn Gray, Principal: firstname.lastname@example.org