“Throughout the pandemic, Ontario’s hospitals have been unwavering in their commitment to ensuring that Ontarians receive the exceptional care they need, when they need it,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This new fund will support hospitals across the province as they develop the innovative solutions needed to continue to provide high quality care and ramp up surgical capacity, reducing wait times and improving access to surgical services for patients.”
At the height of the third wave of the pandemic, Ontario made the difficult but necessary decision to ramp down non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries in order to maximize the health care resources needed to ensure that patients who most urgently needed care could access it. As Ontario begins to safely reopen, it is anticipated that referrals for surgeries and procedures will begin to increase.
Thanks to the resilience and dedication of Ontario’s hospitals, as well as government initiatives such as funding supports for weekend and evening surgeries, the delivery of publicly funded surgical and diagnostic imaging services in alternate settings and investments in improving surgical efficiency and output, Ontario’s hospitals are well-positioned to tackle this challenge. Despite the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on inpatient capacity, Ontario hospitals were able to complete on average 88 per cent of their targeted surgical allocations this past year.
The new $30 million Surgical Innovation Fund is a proposal-based funding opportunity that will support hospitals in all regions of the province to address barriers to surgeries that cannot be addressed by other existing hospital funding streams, including training for more operating room nurses, equipment and technology supports, and small capital projects to leverage existing spaces to provide additional operating room output.
All hospitals across Ontario are eligible to submit their proposals through their Ontario Health Region by July 21, 2021. Working with Ontario Health, the Ministry of Health will review proposals from hospitals and approve projects according to a set of guidelines, including impact on increased surgical and procedural capacity, alignment with surgical recovery priorities such as local wait times, and long-term utility to create lasting impacts for sustained surgical output increases. Joint collaborations between local hospitals and proposals from Ontario Health Teams are also welcomed to maximize both regional collaboration and surgical care pathways, and transitions of care. Funding for approved projects is anticipated to be released in early Fall 2021 for immediate implementation this year.
“The recovery of our health system is vitally important to Ontarians,” said Matthew Anderson, President & CEO of Ontario Health. “As we work to restore care, we will build on the collaborations that have been established during the pandemic and ensure our approach focuses on the entire continuum of care that connects patients requiring surgical services.”
It is critical that Ontarians continue to seek care when they need it and that they contact their health care team if they require urgent care. The government continues to work closely with health system partners to explore additional measures and ensure patients and their families have access to the high-quality care they need, when they need it.