Ontario is boosting pediatric health-care funding by $330 million a year, in part to ease system pressures that saw children’s hospitals strained last fall by a respiratory virus surge.
It will allow children’s hospitals to significantly increase staffing and provide more services, Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday.
“We know that when your child gets sick the last thing you want to deal with is a backlog list or a waitlist,” Ford said at an announcement at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.
“You want care and you want it fast. That’s why this new investment will be targeted at high impact initiatives that can be implemented quickly to reduce wait lists for youth and connect more children to the care they need when they need it.”
The funding is set to go toward more than 100 initiatives, including increasing the number of day surgeries performed, increasing access to diagnostic imaging, and rapid access clinics that will help people avoid the ER during respiratory virus season.
As well, the government said the money will be used to reduce wait times for mental health services, including adding eight new youth wellness hubs, increasing access to psychosocial supports for children with cancer, and an immunization catch-up program.
It will also go toward reducing wait times for children’s rehabilitation services, such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language services.
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Earlier this year, there were about 12,000 children waiting for surgeries in Ontario, more than 90,000 waiting for community- and school-based development and rehabilitation care, and about 28,000 children waiting for community-based mental health treatment.
Alex Munter, the CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, said the funding represents the biggest expansion of pediatric health care in the province’s history and will help in both the short and long term.
“Investing in kids today means happier, healthier citizens, taxpayers, innovators, parents, (and) community members tomorrow,” he said.
“Two of every $3 in the health-care system is spent on chronic disease management and when we can put kids on the path to lifelong health … we prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease, we reduce the need for health-care services later.”
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