Health Care

Below you will find a list of actions that are being taken by our government, and myself – as MPP for Perth-Wellington – to address the current health care vacancies. This is not a comprehensive list.

Community Commitment Program

In Budget 2022, our government committed to investing $142 million over two years to expand the Community Commitment Program. In exchange for committing to practice for two years in a rural or northern community, a nursing graduate would receive a full tuition reimbursement.

Locally, this program has helped the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance to recruit and retain 16 new nurses.

Learn and Stay Grant

In the spring of 2023, our government launched the Learn and Stay Grant. This grant provides free tuition to students studying nursing and medical laboratory technology who commit to working in a Southwestern Ontario rural community upon graduation. Over 1,000 students in Southwestern Ontario have applied for the program.

Rural Healthcare

Ontario is adding 400 physician residents to support the workforce in northern and rural Ontario.

Ontario launched 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.

On December 2, 2023, Minister Jones announced Ontario expanded the Emergency Department Peer-to-Peer Program to 21 additional rural and remote hospitals, bring the total number of hospital emergency departments participating in the program to 27.

Clinical Education

We are investing $41.4 million annually to support the clinical education of Ontario’s nursing education programs.

Enhanced Extern Program

This program offers mentorship, learning, growth and understanding of how to work in a hospital environment. In 2022, this program helped hire up to 5,000 qualified nursing, medical, respiratory therapy, paramedic, physiotherapy, occupational therapy students and internationally educated nurses to work in hospitals across the province.

International Educated Nurses & Physicians

Our government passed legislation, prior to the 2022 Election, to make it easier and quicker for foreign-credentialed health care workers to begin practicing in Ontario by reducing barriers to registering with and being recognized by health regulatory colleges. The legislation prohibits regulatory colleges from requiring Canadian work experience as a qualification for registration, subject to any exemptions provided for in accompanying regulation. It also requires regulatory colleges to certify potential applicants in a timely manner so that internationally trained health care workers can start work as soon as possible.

Minister Jones directed the College of Physicians and Surgeons and College of Nurses to quickly approve the credentials of internationally educated health care workers and build on the over 760 internationally educated nurses already deployed through the Supervised Practice Experience Program.

To help address financial barriers and more nurses to the work force, Ontario will cover the costs of examination, application and registration fees for internationally trained and retired nurses, so they can resume or begin caring for patients sooner and saving them up to $1,500.

As of December 1, 2022, nearly 14,000 new nurses have registered in the province, of which 6,300 are internationally educated.

As of January 1, 2023, these additional changes had been made to help facilitate the integration of international educated nurses and physicians into our health care system:

  • Allowing internationally educated nurses to register in a temporary class and begin working sooner while they work towards full registration;
  • Making it easier for non-practicing or retired nurses to return to the field by introducing flexibility to the requirement that they need to have practiced nursing within a certain period of time before applying for reinstatement; and
  • Creating a new temporary independent practice registration class for physicians from other provinces and territories, making it easier for them to work for up to 90 days in Ontario.
  • Requiring health regulatory colleges to comply with time limits to make registration decisions;
  • Prohibiting health regulatory colleges from requiring Canadian work experience for the purpose of registration, with some exceptions such as when equivalent international experience is accepted; and
  • Accepting language tests approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada) to reduce duplicate language proficiency testing for immigrants to Canada.

Hospital Funding

We invested $760 million across Ontario to support the permanent operation of over 3,100 new hospital beds to help the sector continue to provide care for patients.

Additionally, invested over $880 million to support hospitals in reducing surgical and diagnostic imaging backlogs from delayed or canceled surgeries and help reduce wait times. As of August 2022, surgeries are happening at 88 per cent of their pre-pandemic rate.

Locally, on average, since 2018 our local hospitals have seen a 22 percent increase in their base operating funding. This is funding outside of support provided as part of our pandemic response.

Nurses & Personal Support Workers

Since 2018, the Government of Ontario has added over 63,000 new nurses and nearly 8,000 new doctors have registered to work in Ontario.

Our government is investing over $342 million into immediate and longer-term recruitment initiatives which would add over 13,000 workers to Ontario’s health care system. This includes over 5,000 new and upskilled registered nurses and registered practical nurses as well as 8,000 personal support workers. Additional investments are set to add 6,000 workers for a total of 19,000 additional workers in Ontario’s health care system.

To ensure long-term care homes have the staffing required to deliver the level of care residents deserve, we are investing $4.9 billion over four years to hire 27,000 new PSWs and nurses. Our government passed legislation, Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2022, which enshrined in law our commitment to providing four hours of direct, hands-on care to our seniors by 2025.

Home Care

We are planning to invest $1 billion in additional funds into home care over the next three years.

In 2023-24, we are investing up to $569 million, including nearly $300 million to support contract rate increases to stabilize the home and community care workforce. This funding will also expand home care services and improve the quality of care, making it easier and faster for people to connect to care.

Plan to Stay Open – Health System Stability and Recovery 

On August 18, 2022, Minister Jones and Minister Calandra announced the new phase of our government’s plan to stay open. It is focused on five key areas:  

  1. Preserving our Hospital Capacity  
  1. Providing the Right Care in the Right Place 
  1. Further Reducing Surgical Waitlists  
  1. Easing Pressure On Our Emergency Departments 
  1. Further Expanding Ontario’s Health Workforce  

Preserving our Hospital Capacity 

There are effective COVID-19 therapeutic options available to Ontarians that will help keep them healthy and out of the hospital.  

Free rapid antigen tests will continue to be available at participating grocery and pharmacy retailers throughout the province, as well as for workplaces, schools, and congregate settings.  

Ontario implemented a number of changes to physician funding at the outset of the pandemic in order to ensure as much flexibility in deploying physician resources to aid in pandemic response.  

These measures are being extended to continue to ensure hospitals have flexibility in responding at a local level to changing needs.  

Providing the Right Care in the Right Place  

More long-term care beds 

Our government is taking action to further increase bed capacity in long-term care homes by right-sizing the number of COVID-19 isolation beds, based on community demand and COVID-19 risk levels. By the end of September, approximately 300 long-term care beds that were set aside for COVID-19 isolation will be safely available for people on long-term care wait lists, with a potential of 1,000 more beds available within six months.  

Supporting Transition to Long-Term Care and Preventing Hospitalization 

Bill 7 – More Beds, Better Care Act, 2022 

This legislation supports 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. There will be mandatory guidelines used by placement coordinators to ensure patients continue to stay close to a partner, spouse, loved ones or friends, and ensure these patients will not be out of pocket for any cost difference between their temporary home and their preferred home.  

This will free up at least 250 hospital beds in the first six months alone for those who need them and supporting better patient flow into the future.  

Our priority is for people to live and receive care where they can have the best possible quality of life, close to their family and friends.  

Hospitals have had the ability to charge patients who should be receiving care elsewhere for decades. Ontario Health is looking at operationalizing this policy.  

Expanding Successful 9-1-1 Models of Care  

Patients received the care they needed up to 17 times faster with 94 percent of patients avoiding the emergency department in the days following treatment.  

We are expanding these models of care to include additional aliments and is now giving paramedics the flexibility to treat patients and have them stay at home, take them to a more appropriate care centre, or treat and refer them to another care provider.  

Further Reducing Surgical Waitlists 

Our government invested over $300 million in 2022-23 as part of the province’s surgical recovery strategy, bringing the total investment to approximately $880 million over the last three fiscal years.  

In 2022-23, our government continued to offer premiums to hospitals to support completion of over 200,000 surgeries and procedures. We are also investing in additional operating hours for hospital based MRI and CT machines.  

Easing Pressure on our Emergency Departments  

We are extending the COVID-19 temporary summer locum program to eligible hospitals to March 31, 2023, which will help rural and northern communities address staffing shortages and help maintain 24/7 emergency department services.  

We are also 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 attending physicians in the management of patients presenting to rural emergency departments.  

On December 2, 2022, Minister Jones announced Ontario is expanding the Emergency Department Peer-to-Peer Program to 21 additional rural and remote hospitals, bring the total number of hospital emergency departments participating in the program to 27.

Further Expanding Ontario’s Health Workforce  

Minister Jones continues to work with the College of Nurses and the College of Physicians and Surgeons to bring more internationally education health care professionals into our public health care system.  

Recent proposals could make it easier for about 5,300 non-practising nurses living in Ontario to return to the health care sector. Current rules state a nurse must have practiced within the last three years to be reinstated. However, this requirement could be removed.  

Another proposal would allow internationally educated physicians to be rapidly assessed over a 12-week period of supervision and direct observation. This type of program is already in use in other provinces and is designed to deploy physicians to underserved communities, such as rural areas, and provide a path to licensing.  

Our government is currently covering the cost of examination, application and registration fees to internationally trained and retired nurses, saving an individual up to $1,500.  

Beginning in 2022-23, our government invested up to $57.6 million over three years to further increase the number of nurse practitioners working in long-term care homes.  

We are extending the critical care programs that can help address the current staffing pressures in hospitals including providing students more hands-on training placements in hospitals with high staffing needs.  

Local Pharmacists can offer prescriptions for thirteen common ailments

Ontarians can now visit a local pharmacy to get prescriptions for these thirteen common ailments; hay fever, oral thrush, pink eye, dermatitis, menstrual cramps, acid reflux, hemorrhoids, cold sores, impetigo, insect bites and hives, tick bites, sprains and strains, and urinary tract infections. These changes will allow Ontarians to access the care they need closer to home.

Pharmacists prescribing will help increase access to care in our rural communities. There is no extra charge for these prescriptions.

MPP Rae – Action to date on local health care initiatives

MPP Rae was elected on June 2nd, 2022. He has met with or has been in contact with all three local health care alliance CEOs in Perth-Wellington, which oversee the hospitals in our communities.

He has also met with the many local Family Health Team and shared their recommendations, solutions and concerns with the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, the Hon. Sylvia Jones.

On August 5, 2022, MPP Rae and MP Nater held a healthcare round table on labour retention and recruitment with representatives from various local healthcare providers. MPP Rae shared these recommendations with the appropriate Ministers.

In 2022, MPP Rae announced that local hospitals would be receiving $4.3 million for hospital infrastructure projects. In 2023, MPP Rae announced that local hospitals would be receiving $6.6 million for hospital infrastructure projects. A 34 per cent increase from the previous year. This funding is being made available through the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund (HIRF).

On December 15, 2022, MPP Rae announced the Palmerston and District Hospital will be receiving over $1 million in operational funding for a new MRI machine.

On April 17, 2023, MPP Rae announced Stratford General Hospital received $2.3 million in funding to support their on-call coverage program. This funding supports on-call coverage for doctors working after hours and allows for more stable after-hours coverage.

On February 7, 2024, MPP Rae announced an expansion of two local primary care teams, the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team and the Listowel-Wingham Family Health Team. An investment of over $1.39 million to help 3,600 residents access primary care closer to home. This represents the first expansion of primary care teams since their inception in 2005.

MPP Rae will continue to work with all local health care providers to build a more resilient public health care system in Perth-Wellington.