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Doug Ford gives children’s hospitals annual $330M booster shot


Queen’s Park is giving children’s hospitals an annual booster shot worth $330 million.

Lauded as the largest single expansion of pediatric health-care capacity in Ontario history, Premier Doug Ford insisted the new funding would “provide more children with the care they need close to home.”

“We’re tackling wait times, adding new beds, and building up our health-care workforce to ensure everyone in Ontario, including and especially our children and youth, have access to the care they need, when and where they need it,” Ford told reporters at Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

Alex Munter, the hospital’s chief executive officer, hailed the investment, saying it would “still be paying dividends” years from now.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the provincial and territorial leaders reached a new 10-year, $46.2-billion health-care accord in February, there was an immediate $2-billion to tackle the crisis in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms, and ongoing wait times for surgeries.

Ford emphasized the province’s $330-million is “not one-time funding, it’s ongoing funding,” to give children’s hospitals — like Toronto’s SickKids — more stability.

“We’re going to continue to build on that — we know that when your child gets sick, the last thing you want to deal with is a backlog list or a wait-list. You want care and you want it fast,” the premier said.

“That’s why this new investment will be targeted at high-impact initiatives that can be implemented quickly to reduce wait-lists for youth and connect more children to the care they need when they need it.”

The money is designed to help hire more pediatric surgical staff, increase diagnostic-imaging access, improve service at emergency departments, reduce mental-health services wait times for children and youth, among slews of other initiatives.

Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said the “targeted investments will equip hospitals with the resources needed to plan for new and growing demand.”

“As hospitals continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for an anticipated fall and winter surge, Ontario’s hospitals are grateful for the government’s continued commitment to addressing long-standing capacity challenges across the health-care system,” said Dale.

Dr. Andrew Park, president of the Ontario Medical Association, which represents the province’s doctors, said the cash injection should “help clear the backlog of surgeries and other pediatric care built up during the pandemic.”

The provincial government is trying to get in front of any reprise of last winter’s problems when children’s hospitals were swamped by a post-pandemic surge of respiratory viruses like flu and RSV.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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