By MPP Toby Barrett
Ontario’s response to COVID-19 has been to support frontline workers, build healthcare capacity and invest in our hospitals.
We continued to respond to the pandemic by creating more beds for example, Norfolk General Hospital (NGH) got a boost of $2.35 million for up to 12 new beds.
Investments in other hospitals in Ontario help to relieve pressures on our local hospitals, like NGH, experiencing increased hospitalizations and ICU occupancy rates.
The Ontario Government is providing over $1.2 billion in additional funding for hospitals to address the financial pressures created and exacerbated by the virus. This funding will focus on small and medium hospitals.
Hospitals have seen retail losses over the course of the pandemic; therefore, government is delivering $572.3 million to reimburse hospitals for some of these losses. Ontario has also invested an additional $869 million for supplies and equipment such as testing, swabs, saliva tubes and test kits.
In 2020, 129 hospitals across Ontario received additional funding through the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund, to address critical upgrades, repairs and maintenance to their facilities and to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for patients. Haldimand-Norfolk hospitals received more than $2.3 million combined for upgrades – this was welcome news in comparison to, for example, Niagara receiving $1.7 million.
The 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy, outlined a total of $1.8 billion in additional investments for hospitals in 2021-22. This includes an increase of $778 million in operating funding to meet current and future demands for services. Locally, Norfolk General Hospital will receive $1,105,600, which represents a 2.8 per cent increase. Haldimand War Memorial Hospital and West Haldimand General will both see a two per cent increase.
Overall, the total increase in provincial funding to hospitals just since 2019-2020 is $3.9 billion.
Recently, Norfolk County’s Community Paramedicine for Long-Term Care program received an injection of $2.5 million. These funds will help seniors avoid hospital admissions by focusing on relief of symptoms at home.
In spite of what some may say, a fundamental priority in our plan to modernize, both provincially and locally, is to invest in efficient, stable and modern hospitals that provide all Ontarians with timely access to high-quality care.
Ontario continues to make necessary investments in our local hospitals and to build critical system capacity. The government’s capital plan will invest about $20 billion over the next 10 years in healthcare infrastructure projects.
I have been meeting regularly with NGH for the past 25 years, as well as with War Memorial and West Haldimand, and I encourage applications, as I have always done in the past, for this type of bed expansion and new-build capital projects.
Twenty years ago, I secured funding for Norfolk General’s new emergency department and front entrance under the Mike Harris government. More recently, the Dunnville community and Haldimand County raised money for the new ER at War Memorial with no funding from the provincial Liberals.
The investments Ontario has made over the past year regarding our health system are to protect the health and safety of all of us. These investments also contribute to building a more connected, integrated and sustainable healthcare system, including hospitals large and small, centered on the needs of the patient.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk