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Ontario renews summer ER staffing funding for one more year

Ontario is renewing funding that helps rural and northern hospitals bolster emergency room staffing through the summer, but says the program will end after this year.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones has touted that the program helped avoid nearly 1,500 temporary ER closures last summer, but while it expired on March 31, she did not announce until today that the government would renew it for another summer.

Jones' spokesperson says extending the program required "extensive consultations with key health-care sector partners including the Ontario Medical Association and Ontario Health."

She says the ministry will monitor the success of the program and will assess how best to support emergency departments in the summer of 2024 and beyond.

At least one northern hospital has said the lack of funding since April has led to temporary ER closures, but with the funding announcement today, their summer staffing situation is looking far more promising.

Many northern and rural hospitals rely on doctors from urban areas filling shifts on what is known as a locum basis, and this program was created during the pandemic to pay those doctors a premium for that work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023. Top Stories

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