December 2, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, announced an investment of more than $115 million to support 850 patients with complex care needs that transition from hospitals to home and community care. This investment will ensure that patients are able to access required care within the safety of their own home, preserving hospital capacity needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media.
Investment to Expand Innovative Home and Community Care Services
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott announced an investment of more than $115 million to support 850 Ontario hospital patients with complex care needs transition to home and community care. As a result of this investment, more patients will be able to receive required care in the comfort and safety of their own home. Virtual care options will also be expanded in order to help further preserve hospital capacity.
Part of today’s announcement is the High Intensity Supports at Home program, which provides integrated, team-based care to patients with high care needs who transition from a hospital back to a home or community setting. Through this program, up to 11 hours per day of personal support or nursing services can be provided per patient, which is expected to account for 484,000 nursing and therapy visits, and approximately 1.4 million personal support worker hours.
The following investments were also announced:
- $14.5 million to support the expansion of virtual care for Ontario Health Teams and frontline home and community care service providers. This will enable health care providers to sustain current capacity and improve the quality of virtual care delivery. It will also improve access to care in rural and remote regions.
- $9.5 million for remote patient monitoring programs to support the delivery of remote patient care, monitoring, and symptom management at home, particularly for COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable populations.
- $5 million for virtual home and community care capacity, including the purchase of technologies for video conferencing, remote monitoring and secure messaging.
Taken together, the committed funds will improve patient choice and the accessibility of health care services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Questions from Media
Non-Essential Retail Closures
Premier Ford was asked about an open letter sent to him and Minister Elliott, on behalf of a group of nearly 50 retailers, which called on the government to open all retail in Ontario and impose a 25% capacity limit on “non-essential” stores in lockdown regions. The letter argued that the government’s current plan, which permits big box retailers to remain open in lockdown regions, potentially causes greater health risk by funnelling shoppers into fewer, increasingly crowded stores. In response, while Premier Ford said that his “heart breaks” for retail business owners, he reiterated that he is acting on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force
In response to questions about whether essential workers such as taxi drivers and grocery store employees would be prioritized in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Minister Elliott confirmed that the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force will consider this in its determinations about how to distribute the vaccine equitably and fairly.
COVID-19 Testing at Pearson Airport
Premier Ford expressed concern over the number of international travellers arriving at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, noting that the Ontario and federal governments are working to implement a COVID-19 border testing program at Pearson Airport, similar to the one in effect at the Calgary Airport. Through this program, travellers would be permitted to quarantine for fewer than 14 days upon receiving two negative tests for COVID-19.
Current Case Numbers
When asked about recent COVID-19 case numbers, which have plateaued in the 1700-range this week, Minister Elliott said that the government is hoping to see a downward trend beginning next week, as a result of the lockdowns in Toronto and Peel region.
Minister Elliott would not confirm whether the government planned to move any additional regions to more restrictive public health classifications, but noted that Dr. Williams is in conversation with local medical officers of health for their perspectives on the situations within their respective regions.