The Ontario government announced an expansion of publicly-funded surgeries to clear a backlog due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pre-existing long wait times. The expansion will see more surgeries completed through community surgical centres and expanded diagnostic imaging at private clinics. 

“When it comes to your health, the status quo is no longer acceptable,” said Premier Doug Ford a the January 16 announcement. “Our government is taking bold action to reduce wait times for surgeries, all while ensuring Ontarians use their OHIP card to get the care they need, never their credit card.”

The provincial plan has three steps. The first will tackle cataract surgeries, which currently has one of the longest wait times. New surgical/diagnostic centres in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Ottawa will expand available surgeries by 14,000. This adds about 25 per cent to the existing capacity in Ontario. 

Ontario is spending another $18 million to provide cataract surgeries, and nearly 50,000 hours of non-emergency MRI and CT scans at existing clinics in an effort to reduce wait times for these procedures to pre-March 2020 levels. 

The second step of the government’s plan will expand access to private and non-profit surgical centres for non-urgent MRI and CT scanning, colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures. Officials say this will allow hospitals to focus on complex or higher-risk surgeries and deal with that backlog. 

The final step will see the Ford government table legislation in February, that will expand private and non-profit facilities to perform more hip and knee replacement surgeries in an effort to lower wait times, beginning in 2024. 

Ford stressed during his January 16 press conference that coverage for the procedures would be covered by OHIP.

“This plan will boost the availability of publicly funded health services in Ontario, ensuring that Ontarians currently waiting for specialized surgeries will have greater access to the world class care they need, where and when they need it,” said Sylvia Jones, deputy premier and minister of health. 

According to the government, there is a backlog of over 206,000 procedures in Ontario’s health care system. Prior to the pandemic, that number was about 200,000.

Hospital administrators and the Ontario Medical Association all spoke out in favour following the provincial announcement.

“This is an important solution that can help address wait times, one of the biggest structural problems in the health-care system,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette.

Health care advocates and labour unions spoke out against the move. 

“The Ford government is slashing public hospital budgets as it aggressively funds for-profit surgical centres,” said Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. 

“Every resident of the province should be concerned that our government is creating a two-tier system,” said Bernie Robinson with the Ontario Nurses’ Association.

By Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 25, 2023 at 11:46

This item reprinted with permission from   Morrisburg Leader   Morrisburg, Ontario

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