Introduction

Along with world-class public education, universal access to public health care is part of the social fabric of Ontario that gives everyone a chance to succeed. Ontarians rely on high-quality, publicly funded health care to be there when and where they need it, now and in the future.

Today in Ontario, 94 per cent of Ontarians have access to a family doctor or nurse practitioner. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Ontario is leading the way among all provinces and territories in the country on wait times for hip and knee surgeries, and for computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedures. Ontario’s cancer care system is among the best in the world.

The government is investing an additional $7 billion in health care over the next three years, compared to the 2016 Budget Plan, to reduce wait times, improve access to care and enhance the patient experience. With these new investments, growth in health care spending will now average 3.3 per cent over the medium term.

Ontario will launch a new drug benefit program, OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare, in 2018 to expand access to prescription medicines for all children and youth, regardless of family income. Ontario’s children and youth need medications to treat most acute conditions, common chronic conditions, childhood cancers and other diseases. See Chapter II: Helping You and Your Family for more details.

Summary of New Investments

Increasing Access

  • Building New Hospitals — an additional $9 billion over 10 years to support the construction of new major hospital projects across the province. These transformational investments will provide Ontarians with faster access to care and support the delivery of high-quality services.
  • Increasing Operating Funding for All Public Hospitals — an investment of $518 million will provide a three-per-cent increase to the hospital sector. This investment will support vital hospital services, keep wait times low, and maintain access to elective surgeries.
  • Enhancing Interprofessional Primary Care Teams — $15-million investment to enhance Ontarians’ access to primary care and a suite of OHIP-funded non-physician specialized health services.
  • Modernizing and Enhancing Cancer Screening — enabling early identification and treatment based on the latest evidence.

Reducing Wait Times

  • Reducing the Time to See a Specialized Care Provider through an additional investment of $245 million over three years in enhanced referral pathways for treatment of back pain and other bone and joint conditions, including using new digital tools like eReferrals, and the expansion of a central intake system for each Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
  • Reducing Wait Times for Key Services through an additional investment of $890 million over three years by funding more procedures such as foot, knee, hip and cataract surgeries, and other priority procedures.
  • Expanding Home and Community Care through an additional investment of $85 million over three years to enhance programs such as home nursing, personal support and physiotherapy as well as respite care services. Home and community care programs provide valuable services to Ontarians, including 23,000 home care visits per day.
  • Faster Access to Mental Health Services through an additional investment of $74 million over three years to provide faster access to mental health services, including new supportive housing units and structured psychotherapy.

Enhancing the Patient Experience

  • Launching Ontario’s Dementia Strategy with more than $100 million over three years, improving and better coordinating services for Ontarians living with dementia, and their caregivers.
  • Expanding the Northern Health Travel Grant Program through a $10-million enhancement that helps northern patients with costs associated with receiving care outside their communities.
  • Helping People Live Well in Their Homes by investing $18 million in new funding for community programs, such as Meals on Wheels and transportation support.
  • Improving Maternal Care, such as funding breast pumps for mothers of premature babies, enhanced newborn screening and more midwifery services.
Strengthening Health Care

What We’ve Been Doing since 2013

  • Adding almost 1,700 additional doctors and over 8,400 more nurses to provide Ontario families with quality care
  • Improving access to home and community care and increasing wages for personal support workers
  • Enabling more seniors to qualify for lower out-of-pocket drug costs and offering free shingles vaccines to those aged 65–70
  • Providing approximately $4 billion in capital grants to expand, renew and modernize hospitals
  • Approximately 39 major hospital projects have been completed or are under construction
  • Enabling more than 365,000 children and youth from low-income families to be eligible for free dental services
  • Helping more than 7,200 families each year by covering the cost of one cycle of in vitro fertilization
  • Expanding mental health supports for more than 50,000 children and youth by hiring more front-line staff in schools, communities and courts

Increasing Access

Building More Health Infrastructure

Investments in health infrastructure support the creation of a sustainable, high-quality health care system that will meet the needs of future generations. Over the next 10 years, the Province plans to provide more than $20 billion in capital grants to hospitals. This includes a new commitment of approximately $9 billion to support the construction of new major hospital projects across the province. These transformational investments will support timely access to the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

The Province is committing to several new priority major hospital projects that will address growing demand for health care services and facility condition deficiencies, and support new and innovative models of care. Continued investment in health infrastructure will ensure that the health system remains sustainable into the future.

TABLE 4.1 Newly Approved Major Hospital Projects

Southwest Niagara Health System —
New South Niagara Hospital Capital Project
The project will include construction of a new hospital in support of service transformation in the Niagara Region.
Southwest Windsor Regional Health Centre — New Greenfield Hospital Project The project will include construction of a new hospital in support of service transformation in the Windsor Region.
Central Hamilton Health Sciences —
Hamilton Redevelopment Project
The project will address Hamilton Health Sciences' high-growth needs and update aging infrastructure to meet current hospital standards.
Central Trillium Health Partners —
Broader Redevelopment Project
The project includes investment in the Mississauga Hospital and Queensway Health Centre to add new spaces to address capacity issues, as well as renovate existing space.
North Weeneebayko Area Health Authority — Replacement Hospital Project Ontario is committing to the provincial share of the project costs for a new hospital to serve the health care needs of the population along the James Bay coast. Ontario will work with the federal government to advance planning for this project.

The Province has demonstrated its commitment to securing the future of Ontario’s health care system by providing several hospitals with planning grants since 2013. Through detailed upfront planning work, the Province is taking a responsible approach to addressing the emerging needs of the health care system. Planning grants ensure that proposals meet the needs of local communities across Ontario.

Chart 4.1 Hospital Projects Completed and Underway

Hospital Projects Completed and Underway
Larger version of image
Accessible description of Chart 4.1
Rendering of Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital building
Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital will be Vaughan’s first hospital, serving more than 500,000 people.
Front view of Providence Care Hospital building
Providence Care Hospital’s new state-of-the-art facility in Kingston.
Front view of St. Joseph's Health Care building in St. Thomas
St. Joseph’s Health Care’s London and St. Thomas facilities were completed in 2014.
Front view of Atiokan General Hospital building
Atikokan General Hospital’s renovated space will provide integrated acute and long-term care for the community.
Rendering of Centre for Addiction and Mental Health building
A rendering of CAMH’s future Complex Care and Recovery Building (part of Phase 1C).

Ontario is also committing to a new $2.5-million planning grant for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital. The grant will help the hospital move forward with the Phase 1D redevelopment project focused on complex mental illness forensic services, the final project in CAMH’s redevelopment.

The Province has expanded eligibility and streamlined the approval process for community infrastructure funding to shift care from hospital to community settings. Ontario is providing funding to renew and expand the facilities of organizations such as Community Health Centres, Public Health Units and Family Health Teams. Investments in community health care infrastructure support the co-location and integration of multiple health and social services under one roof. See Chapter II: Helping You and Your Family for more details on community hubs.

Expanding eligibility for community infrastructure funding will also allow for needed investments to increase the number of hospice beds across the province. Funding will support facilities to deliver on the Province’s Palliative and End-of-Life Care Strategy and ensure Ontarians have access to high-quality health services at the end of life’s journey‎.

Increasing Operating Funding for All Public Hospitals

Elderly male patient in a wheelchair with a doctor, in hospital
Ontario has reduced hospital wait times to some of the shortest in the country.

Ontario hospitals have demonstrated leadership in their efforts to help transform the province’s health system. In response to the growing demand for highly specialized and complex services and the need to expand access in growing communities across the province, in 2017–18 the Province will provide an additional $518 million, a three-per-cent increase to the sector. This investment will ensure all hospitals receive, at minimum, a two-per-cent increase for vital hospital services, to expand access to complex clinical services, keep wait times low, maintain access to elective surgery and ensure that important health service programs are maintained.

Investing in Primary Care

Healthcare professional examines child's ear, while being held by mother
Improving access to primary care by recruiting nurse practitioners, social workers and registered dietitians.

Primary health care is the entry point to the health care system for most Ontarians. Primary care is generally understood as the first level of care Ontarians turn to, including the services of family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and others. These care providers play an important role in improving the health and well-being of Ontarians and helping them access other health and social services, such as specialized care and broader community supports. The experience that Ontarians have in the health care system is largely influenced by the type of access, care and coordination they receive through their primary care provider or team.

Ontario has made considerable improvements in primary care. Currently, 94 per cent of Ontarians report having access to a regular primary care provider — 1.7 million more people than in 2003. New models of primary care have been introduced or expanded, including Aboriginal Health Access Centres, Community Health Centres, Family Health Teams and Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics. Advances have also been made in quality improvement, programs to help people stay healthy, and care coordination for complex patients.

Access to high-quality primary care, including prevention and early management of health problems, a focus on the patient as a whole person, and ensuring appropriate use of specialized care, can be expected to lead to improved population health, health equity and lower costs of care.

Enhancing Interprofessional Primary Care Teams

Since 2003, the government has created 184 Family Health Teams and 25 Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics, and has expanded and supported 75 Community Health Centres and 10 Aboriginal Health Access Centres.

These interprofessional primary care organizations deliver comprehensive primary care services and programs through a team of health care professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, physician assistants, dietitians, pharmacists, mental health workers, social workers, psychologists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and other professionals. Programs are designed and delivered around the holistic needs of patients, ranging from programs to help people manage their chronic diseases, to services that help with life challenges that negatively impact health.

Collectively, these 294 primary care organizations are delivering team-based, OHIP-funded comprehensive care to more than 4 million Ontarians.

The Province’s investments in these models of team-based care have helped to improve access to primary care for communities that need it most, resulting in health care improvement in communities across the province. In 2017, Ontario will invest an additional $15 million in team-based primary care to create new or expand existing interprofessional care teams so that all 76 sub-regions across the province have a team.

To further support and improve these important services, the government is continuing its commitment by investing an additional $145 million over the next three years to effectively recruit and retain nurses, nurse practitioners, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, reception staff and other care providers who provide valuable services alongside family doctors on these teams. This is in addition to the $85 million in investments in interprofessional teams announced in the 2016 Budget.

Expanding Registered Nurses’ Scope of Practice

To further reduce wait times for key health services, Ontario has also expanded scopes of practice for some health professionals. Most recently, the government has taken steps toward expanding the scope of practice of registered nurses so they can independently prescribe some medications to patients. This initiative would give patients more choice in primary care and improve timely access to care and patient experience, particularly in rural and northern communities. Starting in 2017, Ontario will further improve access by expanding or enhancing the scopes of practice for additional health care providers.

Increasing Equitable Access to Health Care through Ontario’s First Nations Health Action Plan

Investing in the health and wellness of Indigenous communities is one of many steps on Ontario’s journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. See also Chapter V: Working with Our Partners for more information on Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Elderly Indigenous woman sitting with healthcare professional
The First Nations Health Action Plan focuses on primary and hospital care, public health and crisis support.

As highlighted in Ontario’s First Nations Health Action Plan (OFNHAP), Ontario is investing nearly $222 million over three years, followed by sustained funding of $104.5 million annually, to address health inequities and improve access to culturally appropriate health services over the long term. While focused on northern First Nations, where there are significant gaps in health services, the OFNHAP also includes investments in Indigenous health care across Ontario in home and community care, primary care, and diabetes prevention and management, both on- and off-reserve.

Advancing Timely Cancer Care and Stem Cell Transplants

Stem cell transplants can be an essential component of treatment for people with lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma and other blood disorders. While the Province provides funding for Ontario residents for treatment outside of Canada, the government is building capacity within Ontario to treat complex cancers so that more Ontarians can receive the care they need closer to home.

Last year, Ontario announced investments of $130 million over three years for cancer care services. Over the past year, the Province has also announced investments in infrastructure to improve access to highly specialized stem cell transplant programs at University Health Network, Hamilton Health Sciences Centre, The Ottawa Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

In 2017, the government will focus on continuing to build capacity to provide stem cell transplant treatment for complex blood cancers within the province by investing an additional $32 million. This means that up to 150 more Ontarians will receive life-saving stem cell transplants. As additional capacity is developed, fewer patients will require transplants in the United States.

Modernizing and Enhancing Cancer Screening

Ontario continues to modernize and enhance cancer screening programs to enable early identification and treatment based on the latest evidence. Working with Cancer Care Ontario, the Province will modernize two primary cancer screening tests and develop a new screening program for those at high risk of developing lung cancer. These tests, based on the latest technology, include modernizing colorectal cancer screening from the existing fecal occult blood test (FOBT) to the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), and the primary screening test for cervical cancer from the existing Papanicolaou (Pap) test to the human papillomavirus (HPV) test for women aged 30 to 69. In addition, the Province will launch a lung cancer screening project for people at high risk at three pilot sites: The Ottawa Hospital, Health Sciences North and Lakeridge Health.

Improving Pain Management

One in five Canadians experiences chronic pain. With new investments, Ontarians will have better access to support and guidance in managing chronic pain through interprofessional Chronic Pain Management Clinics and other services. Additionally, health professionals will have better access to tools and resources that will improve the treatment of chronic pain.

In 2017, the government committed $17 million under this strategy, including funding for five pediatric hospitals, 11 academic hospitals and one hospital-affiliated community clinic to enhance or develop chronic pain programs. In 2018, an additional program is planned for Health Sciences North, to serve Sudbury and the surrounding area. The programs focus on prescribing principles and treatments that prioritize patient safety, decrease reliance on opioids in pain management, and increase patients’ ability to manage pain and improve their quality of life.

Acting on Ontario’s Opioid Strategy

Individuals, families and communities across Ontario have been affected by opioid addiction and overdose.

To ensure that patients with opioid addiction are receiving care that allows them to balance addiction treatment and recovery with the rest of their lives, since 2016, Ontarians have had greater access to buprenorphine/naloxone (brand name Suboxone) as a first-line treatment for opioid substitution therapy.

Supervised injection services (SIS) are one part of the broader strategy that responds to growing public health concerns related to injection drug use. Community-supported and community-run SIS permit people to inject their own personally acquired drugs in controlled health care settings. As part of a larger strategy for comprehensive harm reduction, with supports for people struggling with addiction, SIS will save lives.

The government plans to fund three locations for SIS in Toronto and one in Ottawa, pending their required exemption from federal legislation, and will set up a provincial review panel to consider future applications for SIS on a case-by-case basis.

Preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Supporting Those Affected by FASD

Ontario is investing $26 million over four years to expand support for children, youth and families affected by FASD. To increase awareness of the disorder and how it can be prevented, Ontario is supporting six initiatives that will:

  • Create one-stop access to information/training resources;
  • Provide funding for 56 FASD workers to support approximately 2,500 Ontarians with FASD;
  • Support parent support networks;
  • Increase access to FASD initiatives developed by Indigenous partners;
  • Establish a consultation group to provide advice and feedback to inform implementation planning and prioritization of efforts; and
  • Create a research fund and invest in knowledge mobilization.

These initiatives will help reduce the prevalence of the disorder, increase coordination of services, improve the quality of life for those with FASD, and enhance support for families and caregivers.

Reducing Wait Times

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Ontario is leading the way among all provinces and territories in the country on wait times for hip and knee surgeries, as well as MRI and CT scans.1

Over the next three years, the Province will invest $1.3 billion in additional funding to reduce wait times, including $890 million for key surgical and other priority procedures; $245 million to improve specialist access, including new digital solutions to streamline consults and eReferrals; $85 million in new home and community care services; and $74 million to provide more timely mental health services.

Improving Critical Procedures and Wait Times

Since 2003, the Province has made significant investments to help reduce wait times for Ontario patients, including more than three million additional specialized priority procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, cancer radiation therapy and cataract surgeries. These investments have resulted in more than 322 million days of wait time saved for patients since 2005.

In the coming year, to help more patients access the care they need within target times, the Province is focusing investments on high-priority procedures where access is challenging or demand is increasing. These will include more than 28,000 additional MRIs, about 2,100 more cataract surgeries, as well as over 2,800 more hip or knee replacement surgeries.

This year, as part of increased funding for hospitals, Ontario will provide $114 million to increase the number of critical services available in hospitals and help constrain wait times for treatment, including new cardiovascular procedures, expanded care for people with rare diseases, and organ transplants.

Streamlining Access and Reducing Wait Times for Specialized Care

The government will continue to reduce wait times for health services so that patients can access specialized care as soon as possible. Ontario is making additional investments to help improve access to specialized care providers, including $20 million to improve timely, appropriate and transparent referral pathways to care, with improved electronic tools linking primary and specialized care providers and interprofessional team services. In addition, the government is investing $15 million to increase the availability of insured optometry services.

Innovating for Timely Specialized Care

To streamline access to specialized care for patients being assessed for hip or knee replacement surgery, some regions are using a central intake and assessment centre. Patients who need a surgical consultation are referred to a surgeon based on their choice or the shortest surgical waitlist; those whose conditions do not require surgery receive non-surgical treatment recommendations. This program will be expanded across the province.

Ontario will expand programs like Inter-professional Spine Assessment and Education Clinics (ISAECs). ISAECs assess patients’ need for treatment and work with primary and specialized care providers like chiropractors, physiotherapists and surgeons. They leverage the expertise and full scope of practice of health professionals, giving patients faster access to the care they need and reducing their risks, such as opioid addiction through pain management while awaiting treatment. In 2017, $10 million in new funding will go towards this expansion.

Expanding Home and Community Care

Since 2013, the government has grown its investment in home and community care by about $250 million per year, in addition to the government’s ongoing funding of more than $5 billion. This investment has provided more Ontarians with greater access to nursing care, personal support and caregiver support, and has been foundational to helping more people live independently at home, where they want to be. The funding has provided more services and more hours of care for patients. In 2016, 94 per cent of home care clients received home nursing services within five days of their health care provider’s authorization.2 Part of the home and community care funding also improved stability in the workforce and enhanced wages for personal support workers.

A continued investment of $250 million in 2017–18 for community and personal support services will help meet increased demand and support faster and more equitable access to services across the province. The funding will continue to support more hours of care for complex patients,
much-needed respite for caregivers, and the delivery of key improvements in mental health and addiction services. It will also help provide health care for Indigenous peoples, and support implementation of a strategy to help those affected by dementia, including their caregivers. See Chapter II: Helping You and Your Family for further details.

Starting in the fall of 2017, Ontario will also support more education and training programs to support caregivers. The Province is committed to the development of a caregiver toolkit, which will be available online and in paper format as a resource for these valuable care partners.

Better system integration, assistance with navigation of services, increased caregiver respite and more caregiver education and training programs were all key recommendations of the “Bringing Care Home” report. The government is responding to these recommendations and the needs of caregivers by creating an organization focused on coordinating supports and information resources.

Elderly female patient in wheelchair with healthcare professional, in hospital
Helping more patients transition out of hospital and into their homes with the same health care team.

Faster Access to Mental Health and Addiction Services

Mental illness results in more person-years lost to death than cancer, and requires the same determined focus on driving improvements to treatment and access to supports and services. Mental health must be seen as just as important as physical health, and prioritized equally. The Government of Ontario believes there is no health without mental health.

Phase 1 of Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy (from 2011 to 2014) focused on services and supports for children and youth. Building on those, Phase 2 of the Strategy also includes adults, youth in transition and people with addictions, and is meant to ensure that every person in Ontario can access consistent, appropriate services, no matter where they live, so that Ontarians living with mental illness or addiction can recover and participate more fully in community life.

Ontario already provides more than $3.7 billion in ongoing funding for mental health and addictions services, including those for children and youth. In February 2017, the Province announced an additional investment of $140 million over three years to advance the expansion of important evidence-based mental health and addictions initiatives.

As outlined in Open Minds, Healthy Minds, the Province will create mental health and addictions services based on recommendations from Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council. The Council consists of representatives from diverse sectors, including experts and people with lived experience of mental illness and addictions.

Additionally, in recognition of the need to address mental health and addictions across sectors, the government is establishing a special committee of cabinet to drive system change.

Expanding effective mental health and addictions services will enable people living with mental illness or addiction to have earlier access to services in their community. This will help improve access to early identification before crises arise. Investing more in community services is expected to reduce the frequency and length of patients’ stays in psychiatric facilities or hospitals, and to support people in the community.

Increased Access to Structured Psychotherapy

The government is investing close to $73 million over three years to provide greater access to publicly funded structured psychotherapy for thousands of Ontarians living with conditions like anxiety and depression. Ontario is the first province in Canada to commit to a publicly funded psychotherapy program. Structured psychotherapy helps people learn strategies to improve their mental health and their quality of life. More Ontarians will now have access to this evidence-based therapy, either online or in-person, through individual or group sessions. Meanwhile, the government will work with Health Quality Ontario and other stakeholders to develop quality standards for a provincial structured psychotherapy program.

Ontario is also exploring opportunities to better integrate patient care for major depression disorder, by improving referrals to the most appropriate health care providers and expanding tools linking primary care providers to psychiatrists. This will allow more patients to benefit from well coordinated, team-based care.

Providing More Supportive Housing

Ontario is investing more than $45 million over three years to provide up to 1,150 additional supportive housing units for those with serious mental illness or addictions who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. These housing units would provide residents with support services and secure, affordable, stable places to live. With these new investments, by 2019, the government will have funded a total of almost 17,000 units of supportive housing for people living with mental illness or addictions, and other vulnerable people.

Bringing Together Youth Services in One-Stop Hubs

Integrated youth service hubs offer an innovative approach to the early identification of, and intervention in, mental health and addiction issues among youth and young adults to help prevent more serious conditions from developing later in life. Working in new ways with community partners, the government is developing and evaluating a network of up to nine hubs where young people aged 12 to 25 can find walk-in, one-stop access to mental health and addictions services, as well as other health, social and employment supports in a youth-oriented environment.

Enhancing Patient Experience

Supporting Seniors in Their Communities

Ontario is undertaking a number of important initiatives in 2017 to support the health of seniors and their families, outlined in further detail in Chapter II: Helping You and Your Family.

The government is launching a new Dementia Strategy that will provide more than $100 million over three years to expand access to the most appropriate care and supports province-wide for patients and their caregivers.

The Province is also providing $8 million over the next three years to support 40 new community centres. These centres — 263 in all — provide transportation services, social and recreational programs, and other supports to help seniors stay active and independent in their communities.

Enhancing Long-Term Care

Long-term care homes provide residential care and support to some of Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens. Ontario is making investments in long-term care to improve services, such as $58 million for resident care. For additional information on long-term care homes, see Chapter II: Helping You and Your Family.

Ensuring the Best Quality of Care for Patients

The Excellent Care for All Act (ECFAA) underlines the importance of quality in the health care system by defining quality for the health care sector, reinforcing the shared responsibility for quality of care, and ensuring health care organizations make information on their quality of care publicly available. Health Quality Ontario (HQO), established through ECFAA, helps improve the care delivered in Ontario by promoting health care that is supported by the best available scientific evidence. In 2017–18, HQO will be releasing quality standards in a number of clinical areas, establishing important elements of high-quality care for patients in the health system.

Every year, Health Quality Ontario publishes Measuring Up — a comprehensive report outlining details on the health experience of patients in Ontario so they can better understand how the system is performing.

Through its Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC), HQO also makes recommendations to government regarding funding based on the best available evidence for health care services and medical devices. This advice guides important decisions on what new, innovative services and technologies should be invested in. For example, HQO advice has supported investments in 2017–18 in innovative technologies for cardiovascular care, such as Stroke Endovascular Treatment (EVT). Since 2011, OHTAC has provided the government with over 70 recommendations.

Making Northern Health Travel More Affordable

The government is increasing the amount of assistance available to help patients in northern Ontario who must travel long distances to access specialized medical services.

The Northern Health Travel Grant Program helps cover medically related travel costs that residents of northern Ontario incur in order to access OHIP-insured health care services through a medical specialist or designated health care facility, unavailable locally within a radius of 100 kilometres.

Over the last three years, the program has helped over 600,000 northern Ontarians access specialized medical services or health facility–based procedures.

The investment of $10 million will provide additional funding for northern Ontarians through an enhanced accommodation allowance. It will cover more than one night’s accommodation for people who are required to stay away from home for more than one night when travelling from the north for an OHIP-insured service. This investment will ensure that the cost of travelling for northern Ontarians to receive the care they need doesn’t impede their ability to access needed health care services not available close to their home.

Improving Care for Mothers, Babies and Children

In 2017, Ontario will be investing in new and existing programs to improve maternal and child health. This includes a new infant hearing screen as part of the Newborn Screening Ontario program. This new screen will identify approximately 100 babies per year who are affected by hearing loss, and will allow for earlier intervention and improved outcomes. Ontario is also investing in the creation of a provincial prenatal screening program that will enhance access to standardized and high-quality prenatal screening across the province.

A new integrated health network for children, the Kids Health Alliance at Sick Kids Hospital will be introduced in Ontario and will improve the care children receive in emergency departments in hospitals across the province. This network will also achieve a more coordinated, consistent and high-quality system of health care for children and their families.

Additionally, improved supports for premature babies and their families are being made through investment in Ontario’s Human Donor Milk Bank, as well as a new program to improve access to breast pumps for mothers of premature babies.

The Province continues to invest in and support families who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss by expanding support services and improving the collection of data to support the commitments under the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, Research and Care Act, 2015.

Midwifery services provide low-risk birthing options to improve the quality of care and value for Ontarians. In 2017, the government will continue to support more choice and high-quality care for expectant families by continuing to grow Ontario’s midwifery sector by up to 90 new midwives. This continued growth will increase access to safe and family-centred pregnancy and newborn care for Ontario’s families across the province.

About 250 new midwives are expected to enter the profession over the next three years. Families with low-risk births will have increased choices for quality care, reducing the need for more costly hospital or specialized care.

As part of Ontario’s enhanced midwifery services program, two new Indigenous midwives will be hired at the Dilico Family Health Team Clinic in Fort William First Nation. These midwives will provide culturally appropriate child and maternity care for up to 30 Indigenous women and their children in the Robinson Superior Treaty area (the districts of Thunder Bay and Algoma) over the next three years.

The government is investing to establish a further five Indigenous midwifery programs across the province: K’Tigaaning Midwives, Powassan; Kenhte:ke Midwives, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory; Onkwehon:we Midwives, Akwesasne; Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre, Sudbury; and Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, London. Ontario is also offering development grants to Indigenous organizations across the province to explore how midwifery services could be established in their communities.

Integrating Local Health Care Services

Since 2006, Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) have guided funding and planning for hospitals, home and community care, mental health services and long-term care. In the 2016 Budget, following extensive public consultations as part of the “Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care,” the Province proposed to better integrate health care, particularly primary, home and community care, and to foster a closer collaboration with public health, to help ensure seamless, consistent, high-quality health care for Ontarians.

In 2017, Ontario will take the next steps to enhance the model by expanding the authority of LHINs to assume responsibility for the planning of primary care and the delivery of home and community care.

Beginning in 2017, LHINs will also start working through smaller sub-regions to ensure that individual communities’ health needs are better identified and addressed. These sub-regions ensure a better, more local lens for planning and performance improvement in Ontario’s diverse communities.

In alignment with the Patients First Act, 2016, Ontario is supporting patient engagement. The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care will establish a provincial Patient and Family Advisory Council to advise on strengthening patient engagement and key health policy priorities that impact patient care and experience, to ensure the needs and concerns of patients and caregivers are heard and understood. Each of Ontario’s 14 LHINs will also establish a regional Patient and Family Advisory Committee to improve communication between patients, families and the LHINs, support improved patient care experiences, and foster patient involvement in care delivery.

Easy Access to Health Services

Similar to businesses, international organizations and other governments, Ontario recognizes the importance and value of information and communication technologies to inform and advance patient care. The investments made to-date have laid the foundation for the digital health system in place today, and have appropriately focused on health care organizations and clinicians. It is time to do more. As Ontarians are finding new ways of using technology to make their daily lives easier and more convenient, Ontario must do the same for patients — from accessing health records online to accessing home care support for a loved one without leaving home, or using telemedicine technology.

In 2017, Ontario will release a 10-point action plan for Digital Health in Ontario, investing $15 million focused on opening up new ways for patients and families to access health information and services digitally. These actions will strengthen the quality, effectiveness and accountability of the care delivered, and stimulate innovation and growth for the economy through investments in digital health that will reduce wait times, improve access to care, and improve the patient experience.

Protecting Health Care for Tomorrow

More Ontarians want to play an active role in protecting and improving their personal health and wellness, and the government can help by providing more information about smoking, and empowering Ontarians to make healthier choices.

Encouraging a Smoke-Free Ontario

No smoking sign
Helping more smokers quit is part of the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy.

Smoking prevalence has decreased in Ontario, from 19.4 per cent in 2011 to 17.4 per cent in 2014, yet two million people still smoke. To support more Ontarians in quitting tobacco use and to address the current landscape of emerging products, the government will modernize the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy in 2017.

The government will continue to support its strong commitment to create a smoke-free Ontario. By providing free nicotine replacement products and by investing in new smoking cessations programs across the province, Ontarians will have the support they need to quit smoking and stay healthy.

The government will also continue to build on the strategy’s progress by increasing tobacco tax rates by $10 per carton of cigarettes over the next three years, beginning with an immediate $2 per carton increase, effective 12:01 a.m., Friday, April 28, 2017. Tobacco taxes are a proven method of supporting smoking cessation and prevention efforts, and these increases will help drive Ontario towards the lowest smoking rates in Canada.

Family preparing meal in kitchen
The Healthy Kids Community Challenge helps create communities where it’s easy for children to lead healthier lives.

Health Innovation

With the creation of the Office of the Chief Health Innovation Strategist, the government is driving the adoption and diffusion of new health technologies and processes to improve patient outcomes, add value to Ontario’s health care system and create jobs. This is part of the government’s efforts to grow small and medium-sized enterprises in Ontario while transforming the health care system.

Through the $20-million Health Technologies Fund, Ontario is improving patient care with cutting-edge health technology by providing grants for 15 new projects that will improve people’s care at home and in their communities. The Ontario government will be providing grants to additional projects in the coming year. The fund supports the development of Ontario-based health technologies that improve care for people, bring value to the health care system, and create jobs.

Health System Research Fund

The need for scientific evidence to solve complex health sector challenges is greater now than ever before. Ontario will continue to invest in the Health System Research Fund (HSRF) including two new awards in 2017: the Program Awards and the Targeted Call for Nursing Research. By fostering collaboration between the researchers and knowledge users, this Fund is contributing to strategic health system priorities and delivering on the Patients First Action Plan.

Footnotes

1 Canadian Institute for Health Information, “Wait Times for Priority Procedures in Canada” (2017).

2 Health Quality Ontario website, http://www.hqontario.ca/System-Performance/Home-Care-Performance

Chart Descriptions

Chart 4.1: Hospital Projects Completed and Underway

This map shows health infrastructure projects across Ontario completed, under construction or in planning.

Return to Chart 4.1