Ontario investing $52.5 million in health care workers as province enters COVID-19’s second wave

Premier Doug Ford at a press conference at Queen's Park Premier Doug Ford at today's press conference at Queen's Park.

The Ontario government is investing $52.5 million to retain and support healthcare workers, and to recruit over 3,700 more frontline workers across the province.

This news comes as Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ontario is at the beginning of COVID-19’s second wave.

On Monday, the province recorded 700 new cases of COVID-19 after processing 41,111 tests. This is the highest single-day increase ever reported in Ontario since the pandemic began. (See more on this.)

“As we enter the second wave, getting more healthcare workers, more nurses, more personal support workers, getting these folks in place will be absolutely critical because our front line heroes need reinforcements,” said Ford at his Queen’s Park press conference.

“Today’s significant investment will allow us to recruit, retain, and quickly deploy a militia of health care heroes, caregivers, and volunteer professionals to care for our seniors and most vulnerable and ensure our health care system is prepared to deal with any outbreaks or surges in cases.”

“Retaining and increasing the number of frontline health care workers in our continuous fight against COVID-19 is critical”, added Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

Increasing frontline health care workers

“As we continue the fight against COVID-19 in Niagara, as well as anticipate the redevelopment of our hospital in Niagara West, our focus on recruiting, retaining and supporting frontline care professionals is critical,” said Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West in a news release.

Ontario has already put measures in place to prepare and support health care workers. This includes the creation of a matching portal that has already matched over 1,100 frontline workers, released guidance to protect healthcare workers and patients, supplying necessary PPE to health facilities, and more.

The investment will be divided to further support different sectors of workers, include personal support workers (PSWs), supportive care workers, nurses, and other frontline workers.

Ontario is investing $26.3 million to support PSWs and supportive care workers. These will include:

  • $14 million towards PSW training funds to continue training PSWs for home, community, and long-term care sectors.
  • $10.3 million for the new Personal Support Worker Return of Service Program to recruit and retain recent graduates to work in long term care homes, and in home and community care sectors. An additional $5,000 incentive will be given to 2,000 recent graduates for a six-month commitment to working in these settings.
  • $1.3 million to train 160 supportive care workers to provide home support services.
  • $700,000 in accelerated PSW training for 220 students with previous health experience to practice in Ontario.

The province is also investing $26 million to support nurses, including:

  • $18 million to provide full-time salary and benefits for over 600 nurses through Ontario’s Nursing Graduate Guarantee program. The recruiting will focus on recruiting in long-term care homes and acute care settings.
  • Up to $8 million to add over 800 nurses to areas of need across Ontario.

Frontline workers, families, and caregivers will be further supported by:

  • An investment of $200,000 to improve the Ontario Matching Portal for healthcare workers. This will allow employers to get fast matches to meet the needs of their establishment.
  • Expanding training, tool, and resources available to frontline workers in the social service sector.
  • Continuing to update visitor policies in healthcare sectors. This is designed to promote family and caregiver involvement and reduce isolation.

The initiative is part of Ontario’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarian Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19.

The news of this investment comes as Premier Ford announced the beginning of the second wave of COVID-19 in Ontario.

Numbers are deeply concerning

“Today’s numbers are deeply concerning,” said Ford. “And our health officials are telling us that Ontario is now in the second wave of COVID-19. We know that this wave will be more complicated, more complex. It will be worse than the first wave we faced earlier this year.”

Ford pleaded that Ontarians take necessary precautions to help manage this wave as it unfolds. He urged everyone to follow the public health and safety guidance, download the COVID alert app, and get their flu shot.

“If we can get everyone to take these simple steps, we can tip the scale, we can avoid the worst,” said Ford. “The reality is, it is up to each of us. Together, our collective actions will decide if we face a wave or a tsunami.”

Learn More:

Today’s COVID cases in Ontario and Niagara
Original release
Press conference video
Flu immunization campaign
Ontario offering COVID testing at pharmacies starting Friday
Niagara Public Health contact tracing info
Niagara Public Health COVID-19 page