A new health care strategy from the provincial government.
It outlines a series of initiatives that Health Minister Sylvia Jones says will improve the system.
“When it comes to your health and the health of all Ontarians, the status quo isn’t working,” says Jones. “As we put our bold plan into action, you will be connected to care when you need it most and where it’s most convenient, whether that’s closer to home in your community or even at home.”
The province calls its strategy Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care.
It lays out a series of initiatives under three pillars: The Right Care in the Right Place, Faster Access to Care and Hiring More Health Care Workers.
Pillar One: The Right Care in the Right Place
One component is expanding the role of pharmacists so that people can connect to care closer to home at their local pharmacy and giving family doctors more time for appointments with people who need more specialized care for more serious concerns.
The province introduced this measure at the beginning of the year.
Pharmacists can prescribe medications for 13 common ailments at no extra cost.
The province says as of January 29, 2023, there were nearly 40,000 assessments for minor ailments completed and over 31,000 prescriptions issued.
Another measure is to make it faster and easier for youth to connect to mental health and substance use support.
The province is adding eight new Youth Wellness Hubs to the 14 already in operation.
Through the Ontario Health Teams, the province also aims to better connect and coordinate people’s care within their own community by improving their transition between various healthcare providers and ensuring their health records follow them wherever they go for care.
New primary care networks will also be introduced under Ontario Health Teams.
Pillar Two: Faster Access to Care
Under this pillar, the province wants to make it easier and faster to get publicly funded surgeries and procedures by further leveraging the support of community surgical and diagnostic centres to eliminate surgical backlogs and reduce wait times.
More than $18 million will be provided to existing centres to cover the costs of providing more than 49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans, 4,800 cataract surgeries, 900 other ophthalmic surgeries, 1,000 minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and 2,845 plastic surgeries.
Paramedics will have more flexibility to treat people who call 9-1-1 at home or on scene in the community rather than in emergency rooms.
The province also has plans to build capacity for almost 60,000 new and upgraded long-term care beds.
This is in addition to the more than 3,500 hospital beds added in the last three years.
Pillar Three: Hiring More Health Care Workers
To address the healthcare worker shortage, the province is moving forward with the largest medical school education expansion in more than a decade by adding 160 undergraduate seats and 295 postgraduate positions over the next five years.
A new medical school was announced for Brampton last week.
An expansion of the Learn and Stay grant, another program previously announced, is to encourage young people to consider a career in healthcare and assist with their education costs in return for a commitment to work in underserved communities.
The province also introduced new “As of Right” rules that will allow healthcare workers registered in other provinces and territories to work in Ontario without first having to register with one of Ontario’s health regulatory colleges.