Government and Policy
Ontario budget aims to reduce healthcare wait times
TORONTO – The government of Ontario’s budget,
announced earlier in May, contained several items with
implications for healthcare IT and technology in general.
In particular, Finance Minister Gregory Sorbara
(pictured at left) announced:
• funding of $5 million this year to establish a Cancer Care Innovation
Fund to promote new approaches that will reduce waiting times and
improve access to cancer treatment.
• $1 million this year for the establishment of an Ontario Health
Quality Council, which will report annually to the public on how
Ontario’s healthcare system is working.
• $60 million this year for bed lifts for hospitals and long-term care
• nine new MRI and CT sites and 9,000 additional cataract surgeries by
2005-06; and by 2007-08, 36,000 additional cardiac services and 2,340
additional joint replacements.
In addition, the government announced it would provide funds to
hospitals, cancer centres and independent health facilities to expand
services to reduce wait times for cardiac, cataract, and joint
replacement surgeries, cancer treatment, and MRIs and CT scans.
Sorbara said the government would update the cardiac and cancer
radiation registries this year, and in 2005-2006, tracking information
on hip and knee-joint replacements.
Overall, Ontario announced that it would boost overall healthcare
spending to $30.3 billion in 2004-2005, up from $28.1 billion in
That includes a $470 million increase in operating support for
hospitals, and a $406 million jump for long-term care facilities,
including the costs of opening 3,760 additional beds.
Sorbara stated that the government seeks to expand primary and
community-based care to provide cost-effective alternatives to more
expensive institutional care. It intends to:
• Establish 150 new multi-disciplinary Family Health Teams, consisting
of doctors, nurses and nurse-practitioners, capable of providing
round-the-clock primary care.
• Enhance primary care delivery at 54 existing
community health centres, and the number of centres will be expanded
over the government’s mandate.
• Enhance home care by 2007-2008 to supply an additional 95,700
Ontarians annually with care in their homes and provide end-of life care
to another 6,000 clients each year.
• Expand community mental health services to serve an additional 78,600
patients annually by 2007-08 and include increased access to case
management, crisis response and early intervention services.