THUNDER BAY — As part of its comprehensive plan to end hallway health care, the Ontario government is investing over $5.2 million to support the planning and design of a cardiovascular surgery program at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
“Investing in key health services and expanding hospital capacity is essential to supporting Ontario’s surgical recovery and building a connected health care system for all Ontarians, no matter where they live,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “After years of waiting, patients in Northwestern Ontario can finally receive lifesaving cardiovascular treatment closer to home.”
For the first time, cardiac surgery will be regularly performed in Northwestern Ontario, helping to address surgical wait times and improving access to lifesaving care closer to home.
“With investments like this, our government is cutting wait times and strengthening health care services for people all across the province,” said Premier Doug Ford. “This incredible program will ensure the people of northwestern Ontario can get the critical heart care they need faster and closer to home.”
Cardiovascular surgery is currently not offered in Northwestern Ontario, meaning that patients who require cardiovascular surgery must travel to other parts of the province or country to receive care. In 2020/21, 206 patients traveled outside of Northwestern Ontario for cardiovascular surgeries and post-operative care, most often travelling over 10 hours to Toronto. The development of a Cardiovascular Surgery Program at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will make more urgent cardiac and vascular services available, so patients can receive timely, high-quality care.
To launch the cardiovascular surgery program, existing space at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will be renovated and expanded to include:
- Additional cardiovascular surgery inpatient cardiac care unit beds;
- A new surgical suite equipped with C-arm imaging technology and recovery area;
- An expanded ambulatory care and pre-admission clinic;
- A new vascular lab; and
- Renovations to medical devices reprocessing and biomedical departments.
By offering these services in Northwestern Ontario, the program will also help to increase capacity and address surgical wait times in other hospitals across the province that currently perform cardiovascular surgeries for patients from Northwestern Ontario.
The government is also working closely with Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre to expand its existing suite of cardiovascular services to better meet the health care needs of people who live in Northwestern Ontario. The mix of programs and services to be delivered through the cardiovascular surgery program are to be confirmed in future stages of planning.
“Bridging the health services gap in Northern Ontario has always been a top priority for our government,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. “With this investment, we are ensuring that northwestern Ontarians have immediate access to modern cardiovascular surgical services. This initiative will save lives, create better health outcomes, reduce wait times, and allow more patients to get access to lifesaving treatments closer to home.”
“Providing safe quality, life-saving care closer to home is our goal, and the generous financial support from the Government of Ontario is vital to achieve it,” said Dr. Rhonda Crocker Ellacott, President and CEO of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and CEO of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute. “A full cardiovascular surgery program at our Hospital will allow patients in Northwestern Ontario to be provided with the same quality cardiovascular care as they would in Southern Ontario, but without the added stress and expense of having to travel. It also enables patients living in Northwestern Ontario to receive the life-saving procedures they need in a community that is more sensitive to their needs and more familiar with their circumstances.”
In addition, the Ontario government is taking further action to support Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing the hospital’s operating funding for the third straight year, with over $4.4 million in additional operating funding starting in 2021/22. This represents an increase of 1.8 per cent to the over $244 million in funding received by the hospital in 2020/21. The government is also providing the hospital with $989,250 to support an additional 2,300 MRI, and 1,565 CT operating hours as part of Ontario’s comprehensive surgical recovery plan to provide patients with the care they need.
The 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy, outlined a total of $1.8 billion in additional investments for hospitals in 2021-22, ensuring our health care system is prepared to respond to any scenario. This includes an increase of $778 million in funding to meet current and future demands for services, and ensures all publicly funded hospitals will receive a minimum 1 per cent increase to help them keep pace with patient needs and to increase access to high-quality care for patients and families across Ontario. Of the $778 million funding for 2021-2022, the Ontario Health North region hospitals received $33 million.