September 28, 2020
Today, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, announced an investment of $52.5 million to recruit, retain, and support more than 3,700 additional health care workers and caregivers. This investment is part of the province’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, and will ensure that Ontario’s health system can meet surges in demand as a result of COVID-19.
Premier Ford also declared that Ontario has officially entered the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, after 700 new cases of the virus were reported in the province this morning. The Premier called today’s numbers “deeply concerning,” and added that the severity of the second wave will depend on the collective actions of Ontarians. He also reiterated that all options remain on the table, in order to slow the spread of the virus.
Premier Ford and Minister Elliott were joined by Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips, and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Minister Elliott, and Dr. Williams responded to questions from media.
Earlier today, the government also announced a program to help support Northern Ontario businesses impacted by COVID-19.
Keeping Ontarians Safe – Recruiting, Retaining, and Supporting Health Care Workers
This afternoon, the Ontario government announced an investment of $52.5 million to recruit, retain, and support over 3,700 additional frontline health care workers and caregivers to prepare for anticipated surges in health system demand during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The investment is broken down as follows:
- $26.3 million for personal support workers (PSWs) and supportive care workers will be used to continue training PSWs in the home and community care, and long-term care sectors, as well as to recruit and retain recent graduates to work in these sectors. A $5,000 incentive will be provided to 2,000 recent graduates for a six-month commitment to work in the aforementioned settings. Funding will also support training for supportive care workers to provide basic home support services, as well as accelerated PSW training for students with prior health experience.
- $26 million for nurses will be used to support Ontario’s Nursing Graduate Guarantee program, with a focus on recruiting in areas of need such as long-term care homes and acute care settings. Funding will also support the addition of more nurses to the health system in areas of need.
- $200,000 to improve the Ontario Matching Portal, which will enable employers to be more quickly matched with front line health workers that meet their needs.
- Expanding training, tools, and resources available to frontline workers across the social services sector.
In addition to today’s announcement, Minister Elliott said that the province will continue to update visitor policies for congregate care and long-term care settings, promoting family and caregiver involvement to support better care and reduce isolation.
Questions from Media – Ontario’s Response to COVID-19
Possible Rollback to Stage Two
In response to the recent sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) called on the government today to “intensify public health measures” in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area, and Ottawa by returning to stage two of reopening. When asked whether the government would consider taking the OHA’s advice, Minister Elliott reiterated that the government continues to act according to the direction of the COVID-19 Command Table. While the government will re-implement stage two restrictions if necessary, Minister Elliott was clear that the hope is to avoid doing so.
When asked which metrics are being used to determine whether a return to stage two is necessary, Dr. Williams said that the second wave is presenting itself differently than the first wave, as it is currently concentrated in a small number of dense urban areas. As a result, decisions regarding a possible move back to stage two are likely to be made on a regional basis, and in consultation with local medical officers of health.
Recovery Program for Northern Businesses Impacted by COVID-19
Earlier today, the government also announced the Northern Ontario Recovery Program (NORP). This short-term program will provide Northern businesses with assistance in completing projects which enable them to adapt to COVID-19 public health guidelines.
Eligible projects may include building renovations, customer and employee safety installations, equipment purchases including personal protective equipment, marketing for new business initiatives, and restructuring of business operations.
NORP will be administered through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. Applications will be open from October 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020.