Yesterday morning Ontario announced a plan to provide additional stability to their health care system which is under severe strain, a situation that has been dubbed a crisis. The five-point strategy includes measures to preserve hospital capacity, provide the right care in the right place, reduce surgical waitlists, alleviate pressure on emergency departments, and expand the health workforce in the province.
Waitlists for surgical procedures in Ontario have ballooned, so the province’s surgical recovery strategy is a good step in providing timely access to surgery by increasing the number of procedures performed at independent surgical facilities. Provinces like Alberta have recently adopted similar measures, following in the footsteps of the 2010 Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative (SSI), which drastically reduced wait times by using private, for-profit clinics to deliver publicly covered day-surgery procedures.
The government of Ontario is spending an additional $300 million on its surgical recovery strategy in 2022-2023, bringing the total spent to $880 million over the past three fiscal years. The government should also consider additional reform to provide more stability to its health system, because as history shows, once the increased funding ended for the SSI, wait times began to creep up once again.
Ultimately, to deal with constrained capacity, further unlocking of parallel independent resources is a must. As acknowledged by the minister of health, the status quo is no longer sustainable, and real change requires innovation.