The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our health-care system in unprecedented ways. The challenges we now face are critical: a backlog of surgeries, growing hallway health care, the need to build 30,000 long-term-care beds after years of neglect, all while providing high-quality care to a growing number of aging Ontarians.
The global pandemic has exposed many of the underlying cracks in a tired and neglected system. Too few nurses and personal support workers, aging hospitals and a growing waitlist for long-term-care beds are all the result of decades of underinvestment.
Ontario families need access to world-class health care. Doing so requires a renewed partnership between the provinces and the federal government.
When medicare was first established, the federal government agreed to cover 50 per cent of health-care costs. Over time, that funding partnership has eroded, leaving the provinces and territories to cover more than three-quarters of all health-care costs.
The federal contribution to health care is now just 22 per cent across the country. If nothing changes, that number is on track to continue to decline sharply. In fact, if the federal government fails to increase its share of funding, Ontario will face a $40-billion annual funding gap for health care by the year 2040.
That’s why I’ll be joining Canada’s premiers on Thursday at a special first ministers meeting with the prime minister to call on the federal government to increase its funding share from 22 per cent to 35 per cent through the Canada Health Transfer — still well short of the 50 per cent the federal government originally contributed but a strong step in the right direction.
If the federal government were to increase its share by 13 per cent, Ontario would receive an additional $10 billion in health-care funding every year.
Just imagine the possibilities. That’s $10 billion more that could help pay for seven brand new hospitals, 150 new MRI machines and hospital stays for over 72,200 patients. That’s money that could dramatically expand virtual doctor visits or help improve care for Ontario’s most vulnerable in long-term care homes.
We aren’t asking Ottawa to do anything we are not prepared to do ourselves. Ontario has already stepped up with a commitment of $18 billion over 10 years to build and renovate more hospitals. We are improving quality care for seniors by increasing the hours of direct care for each and every long-term care resident to an average of four hours per day by 2024. Ontario has never invested more in mental health and addictions services.
Ontario stands ready to work with our federal and provincial partners to secure a new funding pact on health care to ensure all Canadians have access to world-class care.
It’s time for the federal government to take this request seriously.