March 22, 2021, Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, and Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, Peter Bethlenfalvy, announced over $1.2 billion in funding for Ontario hospitals. This investment is intended to help hospitals manage the financial pressures created by COVID-19 and to tackle a post-pandemic backlog of rescheduled surgeries and non-urgent procedures.
Following today’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media.
Effective today, Ontario residents aged 75 and older may begin booking appointments to receive a COVID-19 vaccine through the provincial booking system. According to Premier Ford, as of noon, approximately 90,000 appointments have been booked by members of this age group. The province has also now surpassed the 1.5 million mark for total doses administered.
Late Friday afternoon, the government announced that eight public health units (PHUs) were being moved to new levels of the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework. The government also revised capacity limits for bars, restaurants, and other food and drink establishments for regions in the Grey-Lockdown, Red-Control, and Orange-Restrict levels of the Framework.
Additional Support for Ontario Hospitals
Today, Premier Ford, Minister Elliott, and Minister Bethlenfalvy announced $1.2 billion to help Ontario hospitals recover from financial pressures created and worsened by COVID-19. This investment is intended to help hospitals strengthen their financial positions and recover lost revenues, so that they can continue to respond to COVID-19 and prepare to tackle the post-pandemic procedure backlog.
Funding will be broken down as follows:
- $696.6 million to help cover historic working funds deficits for qualifying public hospitals. This allotment will focus on small and medium, as well as specialty and rehabilitation hospitals.
- $572.3 million to reimburse qualifying portions of revenue losses as a result of COVID-19, such as co-payments for private rooms and retail revenue.
In addition to today’s announcement, Ontario is reiterating its call on the federal government to increase its share of funding for provincial health care, provided through the Canada Health Transfer.
Questions from Media
Expansion of Pharmacy Vaccination Pilot
When asked about the province’s plans to expand the COVID-19 vaccination pilot which has been operating in the Toronto, Kingston, and Windsor PHUs, Premier Ford noted that the number of pharmacies administering vaccines will soon double, to approximately 700. The Premier added that the province will place an emphasis on ramping up pharmacy capacity in underserved areas and areas experiencing outbreaks, including Peel and York, as well as currently underserved areas of Toronto.
In response to questions about limited vaccine supply, Premier Ford reiterated his calls for the federal government to provide a consistent supply of vaccines to enable more efficient planning for the province.
Premier Ford confirmed that the province would prioritize vaccine rollout in the areas of Sudbury and Thunder Bay, in response to questions about ongoing outbreaks in these regions.
When asked about the decision of Quebec’s Health Minister to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine publicly, in order to combat vaccine hesitancy, Minister Elliott confirmed that she would do the same. Minister Elliott reiterated that all vaccines currently in use in Canada are safe, prevent hospitalizations, and save lives.
Hair Salon Closures
In response to questions about ongoing closures at hair salons, barber shops, and other personal service businesses in Toronto and Peel, Minister Elliott urged residents of these PHUs to remain patient “for another few weeks.” She added that the government is hoping to move Toronto and Peel to the Red level of the provincial Framework soon, which would permit these businesses to reopen, although this is contingent on COVID-19 trends and residents’ adherence to public health measures.
Eight PHUs Moved to New Level of COVID-19 Response Framework
Late Friday afternoon, the government moved eight PHUs to the following new levels of the COVID-19 Response Framework:
- Brant County Health Unit;
- Chatham-Kent Public Health; and,
- Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit.
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
- Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health;
- North Bay Parry Sound District;
- Porcupine Health Unit; and,
- Timiskaming Health Unit.
The new classifications came into effect today at 12:01 a.m.
New Capacity Limits for Restaurants and Bars
The government also revised capacity restrictions for restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments, for regions in Grey-Lockdown, Red-Control, and Orange-Restrict. The following changes came into effect on March 20th:
- For regions in the Orange level, indoor dining is permitted with a maximum capacity of 100 patrons.
- For regions in the Red level, indoor dining is permitted with a maximum capacity of 50 patrons.
- For regions in the Grey level, only outdoor dining is permitted.
All new capacity limits are subject to physical distancing rules. In regions at the Orange and Red levels, indoor dining is limited to members of the same household. In regions at the Grey level, outdoor dining is limited to members of the same household.