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Province adds hospital beds, builds up health workforce

The Ontario government says it is continuing to accelerate its efforts to add hospital beds and build up the province’s health care workforce to ensure patients can continue to access the health care they need when they need it.

The province collaborated with Ontario Health (OH) and the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) on initiatives to deploy internationally educated nurses to hospitals and other health care settings in need of staffing support to work as part of a team under the supervision of a regulated health care provider, such as a registered nurse or doctor.

More than 1,200 internationally educated CNO applicants have expressed interest in participating in these initiatives by mid-January and matching with health-care providers followed with onboarding new staff to continue in the weeks ahead.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s hospitals and health care providers have worked tirelessly to protect the health and safety of patients,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “Our government has continued to make critical investments in our hospital and health workforce to ensure no resource goes untapped so that our hospitals have the staffing and resources they need to care for patients during this challenging time.”

Expanding opportunities for internationally educated nurses is one more way Ontario is increasing the health care workforce. Since March 2020, the government has launched emergency programs that have already added over 6,700 health care professionals to the system, including acute care settings, long-term care homes and home and community care settings that help to preserve hospital capacity.

These programs will also provide hospitals with the capacity to add another 6,000 additional providers to high-need hospitals to support staffing pressures due to COVID-19 by March 31, 2022, including the deployment of nursing students and other health care providers-in-training.

Ontario has also built unprecedented hospital capacity since the start of the pandemic, including $5.1 billion to add 3,100 beds across the province for a total of approximately 17,000 medical and surgical beds. Through additional investments, the province now has a total of 2,436 adult and paediatric ICU beds.

“More than ever, this wave of the pandemic will require us to work as a system, ensuring we utilize all of our provincial resources to meet the needs of patients,” said Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health. “We are working closely with hospital and health care partners to maintain and protect capacity across the system.”

As of mid-January, over 5,100 Ontarians have registered through the Ontario COVID-19 Volunteer Portal and the Health Workforce Matching Portal and have answered the province’s call to arms to businesses, volunteers and retired health professionals to help further boost capacity to administer vaccines and get more boosters into arms sooner.

This includes over 1,900 regulated health professionals (active license and retired), firefighters, first responders, and health professionals in training that have been sent for immunizer training to support the province’s vaccine effort.

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