Ontario’s 2018 budget was presented to the Ontario Legislature by Finance Minister Charles Sousa yesterday, March 28. This is the last provincial Liberal budget before June’s pending election.
Health is a major focus of the budget, with healthcare spending to grow by 5% (almost $3 billion) to $61.3 billion – the largest annual increase in recent history. This accounts for the largest portion of the full budget (almost 40% of all provincial spending).
Major focuses of the budget’s healthcare spending include:
- Shorter wait times for specialized care and services;
- New and improved hospitals for better access to services;
- More consistent and improved community care;
- $100 for services in support of those living with dementia and their caregivers; and
- Free prescription medications for Ontarians 24 and under.
The largest proportion of the increased health spending is going to hospitals whose operating funding is set to increase by 4.6% ($822 million).
Over the next decade, a further $19 billion is earmarked in the form of capital grants intended to help 40 major hospitals that are currently under construction or in the planning stages, province-wide.
Minister Sousa noted that Ontario’s growing and aging population has increased demands on the hospital sector. These demands underscore the importance of giving hospitals the largest funding they have gotten in almost 10 years. The goal is to:
- increase the number of critical procedures and services offered by hospitals(including MRIs and organ transplants);
- improve wait times; and
- assist hospitals with creating increased “surge capacity” (i.e. flexibility to deal with sudden increases in demand for hospital beds caused by, for example, a bad flu season).
A critical element of easing pressure on hospitals will be moving patients that no longer need to be there, including frail and elderly patients who often remain in hospital beds because they have nowhere else to go.
As a result, in addition to focusing heavily on hospitals, the budget also includes significant investments into long-term care and home care, identified as sectors that could help the health care system run more smoothly overall.
Long-Term Care Spending
The budget also provides $58 million for improving long-term care and increases the food allowance for long-term care homes by $15 million in order to provide more nutritious meals for residents.
The government wants to increase access to long-term care, through the addition of 30,000 more beds, a renewed commitment to provide an average of four hours of care for every long-term care resident, and added funding to ensure that every long-term care home has additional resources to assist in caring for patients with dementia.
The budget includes large investments into home care, with Minster Sousa noting that “many seniors prefer to stay in their homes and live independently. We want to help them.”
$650 million will be spent over the next three years on home care and community care, which will allow for the provision of 2.8 additional hours of personal support and 284,000 additional nursing visits.
Response from Stakeholders
Healthcare stakeholders have begun to respond to the budget.
The Ontario Long Term Care Home Association has voiced its support of the budget initiatives, noting that it is set to meaningfully impact to lives of Ontario seniors with complex medical conditions.
The CEO of the Association has stated:
Our sector has never before seen a budget commitment of this magnitude…We are very pleased to see such a concerted effort focused on improving the way our homes deliver care; commitments that we believe will have a lasting and profound impact on the lives of seniors and the care staff who support them.
At Wise Health Law, we provide exceptional guidance on health law matters to public hospitals, long-term care homes, and other health-care providers across the province. We monitor trends and developments in the health sector so that we can provide consistently forward-thinking legal advice and risk management guidance to all of our clients. We have offices in both Toronto and Oakville, Ontario, and are easily accessible. Contact us online, or at 416-915-4234 for a consultation.