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Government & policy

Ontario budget puts $64 million into e-Health

TORONTO – As part of the new provincial budget, Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara (pictured) announced $37.9 billion in healthcare spending for 2007-08, a 29 percent increase from 2003–04, the year the current government first took office.
The spending will include an additional $64 million, in 2007-08, to promote the provincial government’s e-Health strategy.

Components of the strategy include a secure electronic health record for all Ontarians, giving providers the information they need to care for patients safely, no matter where they treat them. Another major strategic direction is the expansion of drug and lab information systems, as well as diagnostic imaging systems, while protecting the security and privacy of patient information.

According to the government, by the end of 2007-08, 150 Family Health Teams are planned to be fully operational – providing care to more than 2.5 million Ontarians in 112 communities. In addition, by 2007-08 the number of Community Health Centres will rise to 76 from the current 54.

Shortages of doctors and nurses will be alleviated by the government’s health-human-resource strategy, Health Force Ontario. Key components of this strategy include:

• Hiring over 8,000 more nurses by the end of 2007-08. The budget proposes spending an additional $43 million, bringing the total to $89 million, to provide every new Ontario nursing graduate with an opportunity for full-time employment, and an increase of $14 million for more nurses in long-term care homes; and

• Training more doctors – first-year medical school enrolment is being increased by 23 per cent between 2004-05 and 2009-10.

The government is improving access to emergency care by investing an additional $143 million in 2007-08 through the Emergency Department Action Plan to:

• Improve physician coverage in, and increasing the efficiency of, emergency departments across the province;

• Invest $35 million in more home-care services and supports to keep people healthy at home; and

• Support the development of 1,750 new long-term care beds and replacement of 662 long-term care beds to help discharge patients from hospitals.

The government is further investing in public health by:

• Providing approximately $20 million, growing to approximately $40 million per year, for colorectal cancer screening for those aged 50 and older – the first program of its kind in Canada;

• Providing funding for the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, an arm’s length centre of excellence that would provide support during any future public health emergency;

• Providing $1.5 million in 2008-09 – growing to $2.5 million by 2010-11 – to enhance regional capacity of communities to respond to HIV/AIDS; and
• Investing approximately $7 million to expand addiction treatment programs. The government is also investing $1 million for a one-year pilot project in Stratford to target producers and traffickers of methamphetamine (crystal meth) and dismantle their labs.