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Government & Policy

Ontario to invest $50 million in MRIs, CTs

TORONTO – Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman announced that the province will create a $50 million fund to replace old diagnostic equipment such as MRIs and CT scanners with newer, more efficient equipment. An additional $5 million will be invested to extend the operating hours of existing MRIs.

The equipment fund is part of $107 million that will be invested this fiscal year to increase the number of procedures performed in five key areas: cancer surgery, select cardiac procedures, hip and knee total joint replacements, cataract surgery and MRI/CT exams.

Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman made the announcement at the Ontario Hospital Association HealthAchieve convention, held in November. “Patients expect and deserve to have access to quality healthcare,” he said. “Our government’s wait times strategy is providing people with faster, better access to health services that will reduce their pain and suffering.”

In particular, the government will invest:
• $14.5 million to fully fund an additional 1,680 hip and knee joint replacements this fiscal year;
• $4 million to assist hospitals with the full cost of 805 cardiac surgeries;
• $10 million to improve access and increase volumes of cancer surgery this year;
• $1.5 million to fund 2,000 new cataract surgeries this year;
• $10 million for education, innovation and other efficiency initiatives;
• $5 million for information technology, development of a wait list registry and methods to prioritize patients;
• $7 million for physician human resource component of increasing volumes, such as costs for pre-operative physician assessment & care, anaesthetist’s costs, surgeon’s cost, post-operative physician care, etc.

Some of the funds will be used to develop needed infrastructure to monitor and manage wait times, including a comprehensive provincial registry to track wait times in these five health service areas by 2006. Ontario also plans to establish the first ever province-wide website to mark the progress of the wait time strategy.

“These investments are just the beginning for our wait time strategy,” Smitherman said. “We will build on these initiatives to achieve our ultimate goal of increasing access to healthcare services and building the critical healthcare system we’ve been lacking.”

In September 2004, Smitherman announced the appointment of Dr. Alan Hudson to the position of Lead of Access To Service And Wait Times. Dr. Hudson is leading the implementation of the government’s wait time strategy and is supported by an action group of national and international experts.

As part of its wait times strategy, the government will be addressing:

• A lack of information on wait times;
• Inefficiencies in the healthcare system that may impede timely access and contribute to wait times;
• The capacity required to reduce wait times; and
• Inconsistent methods of prioritizing patients who are waiting for care.

Smitherman also announced a $29 million investment to move people who no longer need acute care out of hospitals and into a more appropriate care setting, including long-term care homes.