Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday that the province is investing more than $115 million to support more than 800 patients with high, complex care needs.
The funding will give these 850 patients access to services in the comfort of their own homes, while expanding virtual care options for patients across Ontario.
This funding is part of the province's COVID-19 fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, which will enable the province to respond to future surges and waves of the virus, while preserving hospital capacity.
"With today's modern medical advances and technology, and with the help of our dedicated nurses and personal support workers, we are ready to provide quality care for patients in their own homes and in their communities," said Ford.
"This kind of care is not only critical to keeping patients safe and healthy during COVID-19, but also part of our government's ongoing commitment to end hallway health care and ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed."
The new High Intensity Supports at Home program helps patients with high care needs transition from a hospital back to their home or community setting with the right supports, also known as alternate level of care (ALC) patients.
This program provides integrated, team-based care where multiple types of services are wrapped around the patient. This can include up to 11 hours a day of personal support services and nursing services per patient. Other community services may include Meals on Wheels, homemaking and transportation to medical appointments.
"We know there isn't a one size fits all solution for health care; when the first wave of COVID-19 hit and we had to temporarily close in-person counselling, we expanded virtual mental health supports," said Ford.
"When hospitals asked for help to take care of the pressure they're facing with ICUs, we worked diligently with our home and community care partners to find ways to continue providing quality care to patients outside of their hospitals."
With today's investment, the province will add more capacity in hospitals, provide approximately 484,000 nursing and therapy visits and approximately 1.4 million personal support worker hours.
"Our government is making it easier and faster for patients to access high-quality care at home," said health minister Christine Elliott.
"Connecting patients with the care they need, when and where they need it will help keep Ontarians healthy and avoid unnecessary visits and stays at the hospital. This program will help ensure Ontario's hospitals have the capacity needed to address those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic."
As part of Ontario's continued response to the COVID-19 outbreak and in alignment with the Digital First for Health Strategy, Ontario is investing $14.5 million to support the expansion of virtual care for Ontario Health Teams and frontline home and community care service providers.
An investment of $9.5 million will go toward remote patient monitoring programs delivered by various health care organizations, including Ontario Health Team member organizations like hospitals. This will support the delivery of remote patient care, monitoring and symptom management at home to support COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable populations.
As part of this funding, $5 million will be invested in virtual home and community care capacity by providing funding directly to frontline home and community care service providers. This investment will help purchase technologies for video conferencing, remote monitoring and secure messaging that will enable care to continue to be delivered at home, minimizing face-to-face visits where appropriate, and keeping clients and families out of the hospital.
These investments will offer more choices in how patients receive care and make health care simpler, easier and more convenient, while allowing patients to continue accessing the routine health care services they need throughout the pandemic.