Ontario to reveal next steps of ‘Plan to Stay Open’ Thursday

The Ontario government will reveal the next steps of its “Plan to Stay Open” on Thursday, something the Health Minister Sylvia Jones has hinted will create stability in the province’s health-care system and aid in recovery post pandemic.

Speaking at the Association of Municipalities Ontario conference in Ottawa, Jones provided vague details about what these next steps may entail.

The government’s goals, she said, are to “provide the best care possible to patients and residents while ensuring the resources and supports are in place to keep our province and economy open.”

“After decades of inaction, we can no longer stand by and support a status quo that cannot respond to the current challenges of the sector if facing,” she told the crowd. “Instead, guided by the best evidence and the successes of other jurisdictions, the government will take bold action that prioritizes patients and their health above all else.”

Part of the plan will involve an expansion of a program that allows paramedics to transport patients somewhere other than an emergency room or to treat them at the scene.

CTV News Toronto has learned that more details about the plan will be released on Thursday, however it’s unclear what else it will include.

Jones is scheduled to make an announcement alongside Minister of Long-Term Care Paul Calandra and the CEO of Ontario Health Matthew Anderson at 9 am

The Progressive Conservative government has been under fire for saying they have not ruled out the privatization of health care in Ontario as a way of dealing with major staffing shortages in hospitals.

These shortages have prompted some hospitals to close their emergency room departments and non-essential surgeries to be delayed.

On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford was peppered with questions from the official opposition about the possible privatization of some health-care services.

While he adamantly said that “no one will have to pay (for health care) with a credit card,” he also acknowledged—without providing details—that the system needed to change.

“We can’t do the same status quo,” the premier said at the legislature. “We’re gonna fix it. We’re gonna deliver health care in a different fashion, through the sector’s advice, not through our government’s advice, through the experts.”

Health-care workers and advocates have been asking the government for added support over the last few months, but both Jones and Ford have been sidestepping the issue, referring reporters to their previous commitments rather than adopting new policies.

This tactic was used again on Wednesday when opposition members brought up Bill 124, legislation that caps the wages of public sector employees. Advocates have said the repeating of this bill would help with staff retention. In response, Ford noted that his government has already provided nurses with retention bonuses valued at $5,000 and has invested significant funding in training and the creation of more hospital beds.

The government also reiterated that the shortage is not a crisis, but a reality being felt across Canada. The federal government, Ford said, should therefore provide the province with more financial aid.

“This is not unique to Ontario,” he said.

The “Plan to Stay Open” was put forward at the end of March as a strategy to “build a stronger, more resilient health system that is better prepared to respond to crisis.”

It included a permanent wage hike for personal support workers, the creation of two new medical schools, a financial investment in nursing programs, the shoring up of domestic production of personal protective equipment and the creation of 3,000 new hospital beds over the next decade.