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Ontario unveils plan to extend surgeries to private clinics

Ontario has launched a new three-step plan that will see some for-profit community surgery and diagnostic centers take on more responsibilities, including additional surgeries and other medical procedures.

Speaking to reporters Monday morning, Health Minister Sylvia Jones said this will help reduce wait times and eliminate delays in surgeries.

Ontario residents have been waiting far too long for treatment and surgery. Community and diagnostic centers have been invaluable partners in responding to the pandemic and reducing waiting lists. That's why we're launching a three-step plan, a plan that speeds up wait times so people can get publicly funded surgeries and procedures using their health card.

The government said surgical waiting lists should return to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023 under this plan.

The provincial government's three-step plan includes addressing the types of surgeries that accumulate the longest waiting lists, providing more funding to private centers to perform computerized diagnostic tests and even submitting a bill to allow private clinics to perform other types of surgeries with public funds. This was explained by Premier Doug Ford.

We will start with cataract surgeries, one of the surgeries with the longest waiting lists. With new partnerships with surgical and diagnostic centers in Windsor, Kitchener, Waterloo and Ottawa, we will add 14,000 more cataract surgeries covered by OHIP each year, eliminating 25% of the backlog for cataract surgeries. We will be investing more than $18 million in other centers by adding more surgeries in existing centers and 49,000 more hours of MRI and CT scans. We will continue to expand the role of community and diagnostic centers including the introduction of legislation in February that if passed will allow us to continue to reduce wait times for hip and knee replacement surgeries.

The announcement comes as health care experts warn of the potential for exacerbated staff shortages in hospitals.

Experts have questioned why the Ford government would invest more in freestanding facilities rather than provide support to the public sector.

Last week, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said any expansion of private surgical centers would create challenges for hospitals.

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