Ontario Just Released A Three-Step Plan To Reduce Wait Times For Surgeries & Procedures

Here's what you need to know. 👇

Doug Ford speaking at a press conference.

Doug Ford speaking at a press conference.

Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Slyvia Jones just announced a three-step plan to curb surgery and procedure wait times in Ontario by sourcing out to some community surgical and diagnostic centres.

By moving thousands of procedures to some privately-run clinics, the province aims to bring down wait times for cataract surgeries, MRIs, CTs and more.

"When it comes to your health, the status quo is no longer acceptable," said Ford. "Our government is taking bold action to reduce wait times for surgeries, all while ensuring Ontarians use their OHIP card to get the care they need, never their credit card."

In a press conference on Monday, Ford explained how Ontario plans to permanently integrate community surgical and diagnostic centres to speed up procedure wait times and free up hospitals to perform more pressing surgeries.

Tackling the surgery backlog

Step one of the plan will tackle the post and pre-pandemic backlog of cataract surgeries by forming partnerships with community surgical and diagnostic centres in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.

These additional resources will allow for 14,000 more cataract surgeries to be performed per year, which will help clear up 25 percent of the waiting list, according to a press release.

Additionally, Ontario will be investing over $18 million into current centres, which will fund "49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans, 4,800 cataract surgeries, 900 other ophthalmic surgeries, 1,000 minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and 2,845 plastic surgeries such as hand soft tissue repair."

Ford predicts that through these measures, the surgical waitlist will return to "pre-pandemic levels" by March 2023, as long as everything goes to plan.

Cutting down wait times

Step two of the plan will focus on cutting back on wait times by using community surgical and diagnostic centres to help with cataracts, MRI, CT imaging, colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures in 2023.

Passing off these lower-risk procedures to the centres will also free up hospitals to take care of more urgent matters.

New legislation

Ford plans on introducing new legislation in February 2023 that will allow for these centres to perform more publicly funded diagnostic services like MRI and CT scanning.

In 2024, Ford hopes to increase the procedures offered at these clinics to include knee and hip surgeries and, through legislation, increase more offerings at these centres to help keep wait times down.

Although Ford has committed that these services will be covered by OHIP, not everyone is keen to see community surgical and diagnostic centres utilized, as they are for-profit institutions.

Five healthcare unions in Ontario issued a statement that said Ford's plan to expand private health clinics in Ontario would risk lives and significantly worsen staffing shortages in public hospitals.

"This move will further starve our public healthcare system of funding and divert front-line staff to enrich private shareholders and diminish access to publicly-delivered healthcare," the statement read. "Patients will wait even longer for healthcare under this scheme and should not be misled into believing they will not pay out of pocket."

The unions argued that instead, Ford should focus on investing in the public healthcare system by implementing substantial staff retention measures and funding public hospitals "at least at the rate of the Canadian hospital average to deal with population growth, ageing and inflationary pressures."

Brooke Houghton
Brooke Houghton is a contributing writer for Narcity Media based in Toronto, Ontario.