TORONTO -- The provincial government is expanding its paramedicine services to all eligible seniors in Ontario to provide intermediate care for those waiting to enter the long-term care system.

Friday morning, Minister of Long-Term Care Rod Phillips along with Toronto Mayor John Tory announced more than $80 million to expand the Community Paramedicine for Long-Term Care program.

The program allows local paramedics to offer care for seniors in their own homes, as they wait for admission into long-term care.

The government says the program is one piece of the province’s larger strategy to combat waitlists in the sector.

“It supports clients through home visits so that you could have a smaller vehicle with one person, a highly skilled professional of course, go to see a senior that is in need of some sort of care…but also so you don’t have to send necessarily, sometimes often on an unplanned basis, a full EMS ambulance vehicle,” Tory said at a press conference in Toronto.

The program, which is currently active in 33 communities, will be implemented in an additional 22 communities, making the service available to all eligible seniors in the province.

“Today’s program expansion includes many nearby communities like Durham and Peterborough, but also many northern and Indigenous communities,” Phillips said.

In Oct. 2020, the program was piloted across five communities and has provided home visits and services to seniors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The home visits take about 45 to 90 minutes each depending on the nature of the visit and they can happen either on a routine basis or in response to real time requests that come from seniors, or from their families or sometimes even from their healthcare providers,” Tory said.

Tory added that the program can reduce the use of 911 services by up to 50 per cent in Toronto as seniors represent almost half of those emergency calls.

The announcement comes after a recent poll revealed that nearly 90 per cent of Ontarians aged 55 and over say they want to continue living in their homes and avoid retirement and long-term care homes as long as possible.

As of May 2021, over 38,000 Ontarians were on the waitlist to access a long-term care bed.

The government says it will be investing over $2 billion in total development investments for long-term care which will lead to thousands of new and upgraded retirement and nursing home spaces across the province.

In Dec. 2020, the province also launched its long-term care Staffing Plan which aims to provide nursing home residents an average of four hours of direct care per day by 2024-2025.