Ontario Introduces A Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery

The Ontario government introduced its Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery, a five-point plan to provide the best care possible to patients and residents while ensuring the resources and supports are in place to keep the province and economy open. The plan further bolsters Ontario’s health care workforce, expands innovative models of care and ensures hospital beds are there for patients when they need them.

Key points include:

1) Preserving our Hospital Capacity:

  • Continuing to provide 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 continue to be provided.
  • Free rapid antigen tests will continue to be available to the general public 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:

  • Expanding the 9-1-1 models of care to include additional ailments and gives paramedics the flexibility to provide better, more appropriate care diverting care from emergency departments.
  • Ontario is introducing legislation that, if passed, will support patients whose doctors have said they no longer need hospital treatment and should instead be placed in a long-term care home, while they wait for their preferred home.
  • Ontario continues to fund community paramedicine to provide additional care for seniors in the comfort of their own homes before their admission to a long-term care home. 

3) Further Reducing Surgical Waitlists:

  • Investing over $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.
  • Ontario is working with hospital partners to identify innovative solutions 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.
  • Investing more to increase surgeries in paediatric hospitals and existing private clinics covered by OHIP, as well as funding more than 150,000 additional operating hours for hospital-based MRI and CT machines.

4) Easing Pressure on our Emergency Departments:

  • Launching 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.
  • Adding 400 physician residents to support the workforce in northern and rural Ontario.
  • Ontario is working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to expedite the registration of doctors, including those from out-of-province and who may want to work in rural and northern emergency departments, so they can start working and caring for patients sooner.

5) Further Expanding Ontario’s Health Workforce:

  • Ontario is working with the College of Nurses of Ontario and Ontario Health to expand funding for the supervised practice experience partnership program which supports international nurses in getting licensed.
  • Working with the College of Nurses of Ontario to reduce financial barriers that may prevent 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, saving them up to $1,500.
  • Ontario will engage with our frontline partners to better understand how we can bring stability to hospitals and emergency departments, while protecting quality of care.

OSOT feels that this plan continues to disappoint as it ignores the significant impact occupational therapy and other allied health professionals can have on the health of Ontarians and the healthcare system as a whole. It does not consider the crisis and ongoing issues we see in home and community care, long-term care, mental health, rehabilitation, primary care, supporting workers return and remain at work, and others that, if addressed, can work to alleviate pressures faced in hospitals. 

As OSOT prepares our response, we would like to hear from you about innovative care models, health transformation projects, and other solutions for our struggling system.