Hi everyone,

In a recent "Straight Talk" I talked about the emergency department (ED) overcrowding situation facing Ontario hospitals and a report that was prepared by a committee that I co-chair representing the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Medical Association. The recommendations in the report were designed to reduce bottlenecks in our system that inhibit patient flow into our units from the ED and out of our units to the community. Today, Health Minister George Smitherman announced a $142-million plan to shorten ED wait times building upon most of the recommendations made by the tri-partite committee. The plan includes:

Human Resources

  • $11.2 million to retain and recruit ED doctors. This funding includes premiums to provide 24/7 ED coverage (including seasonal variations and holiday periods), allows and supports physicians-in-training with licenses to work in EDs, and a new program to support family doctors, nurses and others upgrade their skills to work in the EDs.
  • $2 million to launch pilot projects in six communities outside of Toronto to introduce physician assistants and nurse practitioners to emergency departments;

Hospital Operations

  • $76.8 million will be invested to increase hospital capacity and patient flow. This fund is broken down into a number of envelopes, including $10 million that hospitals can apply for initiative​s that enhance patient flow (for example, methods currently being tested in UHN's ED-GIM project); $7.5 million for additional critical care beds under the provincial Critical Care Strategy; $2.5 million for ED coaching teams and flow toolkits disseminating best practices; and $1.8 million for five additional Critical Care Response Teams to help stabilize patients anywhere in the hospital. Additional funding will be allocated to assist small and rural hospitals, as well as hospitals experiencing high population growth. We expect that some of this funding will be available to manage pressures on our in-patient units.

The government recognizes that in order to improve ED bottlenecks and flow within hospitals, you must also increase capacity across the health care continuum. Therefore, $52.4 million allocated to community-based services is very welcome news. The new investments will be used to:

Community Services

  • Create new and replace long-term care beds; increase CCAC and home care services; hire more health care professionals in Community Health Centres; and create Diabetes Education Teams to provide education, early intervention and prevention of diabetes-related complications.

Overall, I believe this announcement is welcome news for hospitals, community providers and most importantly, patients. Improvements will take time as strategies and new resources are being implemented, but we're clearly on the right track.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on today's announcement. For more information, I encourage you to read the Ministry's news release at www.health.gov.on.ca


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