Ontario government set out a three step process that will mean big changes in the delivery of surgical procedures

By Staff

January 16th, 2023



The Ontario government is making it easier and faster for people to access the publicly-funded surgeries and procedures they need by further leveraging community surgical and diagnostic centres to eliminate surgical backlogs and reduce wait times. As the government significantly expands the number of surgeries being done through community surgical and diagnostic centres, it will do so with measures in place to protect the stability of health human resources at public hospitals, including requiring new facilities to provide detailed staffing plans as part of their application and requiring a number of physicians at these centres to have active privileges at their local hospital.

“When it comes to your health, the status quo is no longer acceptable,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Our government is taking bold action to reduce wait times for surgeries, all while ensuring Ontarians use their OHIP card to get the care they need, never their credit card.”

Community surgical and diagnostic centres have been valuable partners in responding to the pandemic and addressing the pandemic-related backlog in surgeries. Increasing community delivery of surgeries has proven to increase patient and provider satisfaction and reduces the risk of a rescheduled appointment. Surgeries performed at these centres will be publicly-funded.
Ontario has a three-step plan that better integrates and uses these state-of-the-art facilities to speed up how quickly people are able to get surgeries and procedures using their health card.

Step One: Ontario is urgently tackling the existing backlog for cataract surgeries, which has one of the longest waits for procedures.

New partnerships with community surgical and diagnostic centres in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa will add 14,000 additional cataract surgeries that will be performed each year. This number represents up to 25% of the province’s current cataract waitlist, and accounts for the estimated COVID-related backlog of cataract surgeries. These centres will perform the 14,000 additional surgeries with existing health human resources.

Ontario is also investing more than $18 million in existing centres to cover care for thousands of patients, including more than 49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans, 4,800 cataract surgeries, 900 other ophthalmic surgeries, 1,000 minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and 2,845 plastic surgeries such as hand soft tissue repair. Surgical wait lists are anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023, barring operational issues.

Step Two: To further reduce wait times, Ontario is expanding the scope of community surgical and diagnostic centres to address regional needs with a continued focus on cataracts, as well as MRI and CT imaging and colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures. To start as early as 2023, these procedures will be non-urgent, low-risk and minimally invasive and, in addition to shortening wait times, will allow hospitals to focus their efforts and resources on more complex and high-risk surgeries.

Step Three: Early detection and diagnosis of a health issue has an immense benefit on a patient’s quality of life, prognosis and treatment path. As a next step, the government will introduce legislation in February that will, if passed, allow existing community diagnostic centres to conduct more MRI and CT scanning so that people can access publicly funded diagnostic services faster and closer to home.

Starting in 2024, this next step will also expand surgeries for hip and knee replacements. Legislative changes will also, if passed, strengthen oversight of community surgical settings so that patients can continue to expect to receive the world class care they know and deserve and provide the province with more flexibility to continue to expand access to more surgeries and further reduce wait times. As the province expands the role of community surgical and diagnostic centres, Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health will continue to work with system partners and clinical experts to put in place the highest standards for quality and safety.

“Timely and convenient access to surgery and diagnostic imaging is critical to keeping people healthy,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This plan will boost the availability of publicly funded health services in Ontario, ensuring that Ontarians currently waiting for specialized surgeries will have greater access to the world class care they need, where and when they need it.”

As the government shortens wait times using community surgical and diagnostic centres, Ontario Health will ensure that these centres are included in regional health system planning. Funding agreements with new community surgical and diagnostic centres will require these facilities to work with local public hospitals to ensure health system integration and linkages, including connection and reporting into the province’s wait times information system and participation in regional central intakes, where available. Community surgical and diagnostic centres will also coordinate with local public hospitals to accept patients that are being referred, ensuring people get the surgery they need as quickly as possible.

Related news story:

Premier’s media conference:

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8 comments to Ontario government set out a three step process that will mean big changes in the delivery of surgical procedures

  • Ted Gamble

    When I had the toric lenses placed it was an additional $500 per lens. The multifocal lens were a approximately an additional $700 per lens or $1,200 more than each standard spherical lens.
    In my experience, the skill level and time element do not differ at all for any of these lenses. Same surgeon, same procedure.

  • Ted Gamble

    One last comment. One of my surgeons undertook my dad’s cataract surgeries at a privately operated clinic in Oakville on Lakeshore about 15 years ago paid for by OHIP. Some of the readers will figure out the who and where.

    This same incredibly skilled surgeon did my cataract surgery about 5 years ago following my retina surgeries by another surgeon at the regional eye clinic on King Street in Hamilton.This was done at Joseph Brant again funded by OHIP but I paid for upgraded toric lenses. This is not hothing new. here to see. I have subsequently had laser scar removal done again at Joseph Brant.

    All of these eye procedures and probably others do not need to be undertaken in a hospital.

    As I have mentioned on a previous post Canadian surgeons are criss crossing five provinces having met their provincial needs doing paid orthopedic surgeries, knees, hips etc. under the name of Gateway Surgical. None of this is particularly newsworthy unless one has a political agenda.

    Editor’s comment: Is it your view that a significant change in policy should not be made public and that doing so is part of political agena? Yours or ours?

  • Penny Hersh

    Ted, totally agree that not all patients require the lens upgrade. Unfortunately most patients are not told why they would require this upgrade and assume that it must be a better option.

    Perhaps prior to agreeing to the upgrade the patient should be told, or look into if this would benefit them. Return to their optometrist who referred them to the ophthalmologist and ask them these questions prior to committing.

    I think presently the price for this upgrade is $250.00 per eye which would amount to $500.00. I would like to know what the difference in cost between these lenses are and if it takes more skill or time to insert them.

    I have for a long time indicated that some seniors could benefit from a volunteer advocate service that could provide answers to some questions.

    The answers are available one simply needs to know where to go to get them.

  • Grahame

    Thanks Penny

  • Ted Gamble

    I have had six eye procedures and paid for a toric lense upgrade over the government funded spherical lense hoping to improve my situation after 60 years of astigmatism. Through no fault of anyone but myself it entirely changed my sight experience. Perhaps I should have gone all in on multifocal lenses. The point I am making is that the spherical lenses solve the cataract s and the upgrades are not for everyone. It makes sense to me that the government only fund the basic lense as there are many other medical needs particularly increased health care staff.

  • Penny Hersh

    Grahame – here is the information concerning the clinics. You will need a requisition from your physician.

    – GI Health Center – gihc.ca
    1960 Appleby Line, Burlington

    – Medisen Cardiology Medicine Associates – medisen.ca
    460 Brant Street, Suite 201 (in the building where CineStarz is located), Burlington

    -Wentworth-Halton X-ray and Ultrasound
    760 Brant Street ( Burlington Square Plaza) Burlington

    LADIES – I would suggest you go for your mammograms and ultrasounds at Joseph Brant Hospital. The hospital has the most up-to-date machines and is part of the Ontario Breast Screening program. Call the Women’s Imaging Centre at 905-681-4915. NO DOCTOR’S REFERRAL IS NECESSARY THROUGH THE ONTARIO BREAST SCREENING PLAN PROGRAM.

  • Grahame

    Where are these “diagnostic centres “ located ??

  • Penny Hersh

    I did hear the Premier taking questions from reporters concerning these forthcoming changes. I also heard the Minister of Health not really answer the question posed to her concerning cataract surgery. The question being asked over and over again concerned the additional cost for a better lens instead of the lens that OHIP pays for. In reality this question is asked every time a patient needs cataract surgery that is performed in the hospital….No Change here.

    I hope that people realize that 14,000 additional cataract surgeries in reality is 7,000 patients getting this surgery because every person has to have 2 surgical appointments. Cataract surgery is done one eye at a time.

    The cost of equipping an office with MRI equipment can be over a hundred thousand dollars. Many radiology groups will rent these machines rather than purchasing them, but it is an expensive proposition.

    Will the government be funding these machines?

    How long will it take for patients to actually be seen in these clinics…a vetting government process has to take place first. How can any private clinic dictate where nurses choose to work, which is one of the pre-requisites ( nurses are not to be poached from hospitals and other healthcare facilities)?

    Want to take a bet that these enhanced services will not even start until 2024? By that time the waiting list for cataract surgery will be even longer.

    Don’t get me started on when knee and hip surgery will be part of this enhanced service. To equip an operating room to do these surgeries is not only expensive, but it has to be staffed with top doctors and nurses ( people are under general anaesthesia). I especially liked the Premier’s words ” doctors can do this in their spare time”.

    Burlington presently does have some private clinics that take OHIP payment for services. GI Health does colonoscopies, and endoscopy procedures. We also have clinics that do mammograms, ultrasounds, and x-rays. Medisen-Cardiology and Internal Medicine is also a private clinic that takes OHIP payment.This is nothing new for Burlington.

    I hope Burlington is able to attract more medical groups to extend their services. Personally, I have used the private clinics and they are much more patient friendly. They actually do procedures on a Saturday and later in the day.

    Once again the Premier is dangling a carrot, hoping that people will not question how soon and how many services will actually be available.

    Smoke and Mirrors.