Ontario sends cash injection to Region to offset COVID costs from Pickering to Oshawa

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Published January 11, 2023 at 3:16 pm

The Province of Ontario is sending a $2.6 million cash injection to the Durham Region health unit to help offset the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds come through the government’s second phase of their Plan to Stay Open, which was announced last August. The plan’s stated goal is to “build a stronger, more resilient health care system that is better prepared to respond to crisis,” according to a news release.

Durham Region will be able to use these funds to cover revenue losses, operating expenses, and priority projects. Such projects include vaccination efforts, outbreak prevention and management, contact tracing and reporting.

“This funding will be used to help offset expenses incurred during the pandemic, ensuring communities in Durham Region can continue to provide public health services to residents,” said Health Minister Sylvia Jones.

MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy concurred saying, “I am pleased to see this investment
into the Region of Durham’s Public Health Unit which improves the well-being and quality of life for residents.”

The funding bump builds off of the Province’s $182 million earmarked for COVID-19-related healthcare spending across Ontario. Furthermore, the government has flagged $3.5 million for major emergency response funding province-wide.

In total, Ontario’s last budget included a $40 billion investment pledge over the next ten years for healthcare infrastructure. This is earmarked to expand hospital capacity, build new facilities and hospitals (like Whitby’s) and more long-term care beds.

Ontario’s healthcare system remains plagued by staff shortages. The government hopes to improve this situation by adding 5,000 new and upskilled nurses and 8,000 PSWs, the positions most greatly impacted.

In part, the Province plans to alleviate this by certifying foreign nurses to work in Ontario.

However, Bill 124 remains an albatross around the workforce’s neck, according the the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA). The ONA has campaigned heavily against the bill that limits pay increases for healthcare workers to 1 per cent annually.

The bill was recently found to be unconstitutional by the Ontario Superior Court and thus overturned. However, the Government plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Days ago, Global News obtained internal government documents showing the government knew Bill 124, among other factors, was affecting staff retention as of at least May 2022.

On average between 6,000 and 7,000 nurses have left the field every year since 2019. Statistics Canada expects this to continue, finding a quarter of nurses, 16 per cent of PSWs and one in ten doctors planning to quit in the next three years.

 

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