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COVID-19 second wave: Ontario to invest $52 million to recruit, train 3,700 healthcare workers

Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement with Health Minister Christine Elliott during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Thursday, September 24, 2020.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement with Health Minister Christine Elliott during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Thursday, September 24, 2020.

Ontario will invest over $52 million into recruiting and training over 3,700 additional healthcare workers and caregivers to support an already strained healthcare system against the second wave of COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford announced.

The funding, Ford said Monday, will add 800 more nurses and 600 acute-care nurses, as well as 2,000 more personal support workers.

The province will invest an additional $14 million, Ford said, in training the extra personal support workers to work in long-term care homes and other community care settings. The plan will come with a $5,000 incentive for new recruits to commit to at least six months of working with patients with “urgent needs.”

“Our frontline heroes, they need reinforcements,” he said.

Health Minister Christine Elliott added that the province will invest $200,000 to improve the Ontario Matching Portal, which had been launched in April to help healthcare employers match with employees best suited to the system’s needs. The new funding, she said, will help deploy essential workers where they are needed the most, and will “ensure that the system is equipped to deal with a surge in cases.”

Ford called the 700 new cases reported in Ontario Monday — the highest recorded daily increase since the start of the pandemic — very concerning.

“Our health officials are telling us that Ontario is now in the second wave of COVID-19,” he told reporters. The second wave, he said, has the potential to be more complicated and hard-hitting than the first wave experienced in the spring.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said that the second wave looks like “one of those undulating waves,” although it is too early to tell how big it may be. “Right now we’re on the upwards slope of the second wave,” he said during a press briefing on Monday.

Elliott said earlier today that 344 of the 700 new cases were reported in Toronto. Sixty per cent of the new cases are among people under the age of 40.

On Monday, Ontario’s hospitals called on the government to move Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa back to Stage Two of the province’s pandemic response which saw restrictions on non-essential businesses like restaurants, gyms, and movie theatres. Ontario Hospital Association President Anthony Dale warned that hospitals could become overwhelmed with patients if such action isn’t taken.

“We can no longer retain a false sense of security and belief that this will not happen to us,” he said in a statement.

“At this rate, Ontario hospitals are facing a direct threat to their ability to continue to delivering the highest quality of care to Ontarians.”

Dale said that the average acute care occupancy rate of Ontario’s hospitals is 89 per cent currently, but some of the facilities are already at 100 per cent capacity.

Currently, there are no plans to move the regions back to Stage 2, Elliott told reporters, but the option is certainly on the table. “We are taking advice from Dr. Williams and our public health measures table and we don’t want to turn back a stage unless we absolutely have to,” she said. She referenced the province’s 28-day moratorium on new businesses as well as restricting the number of hours during which bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open as measures taken to combat the virus spread.

As of Friday, 60 pharmacies within COVID-19 hotspots in the GTA now offer testing for those either exposed to COVID-19 or with virus symptoms, in the hope of reducing long wait times at assessment centres. Last week, Ford announced the first two stages of what officials described as a “six-element” fall preparedness plan to tackle the second wave. So far, the province has announced that $70 million has been used to purchase 5.1 million doses of the flu vaccine, as part of a province-wide flu immunization campaign.

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 2:08 p.m. EDT on Sept. 28, 2020:

There are 154,613 confirmed cases in Canada.
— Quebec: 72,651 confirmed (including 5,826 deaths, 61,629 resolved)
— Ontario: 50,531 confirmed (including 2,840 deaths, 43,127 resolved)
— Alberta: 17,343 confirmed (including 261 deaths, 15,585 resolved)
— British Columbia: 8,641 confirmed (including 230 deaths, 7,036 resolved)
— Manitoba: 1,919 confirmed (including 20 deaths, 1,281 resolved)
— Saskatchewan: 1,878 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,699 resolved)
— Nova Scotia: 1,087 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,021 resolved)
— Newfoundland and Labrador: 272 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 267 resolved)
— New Brunswick: 200 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 191 resolved)
— Prince Edward Island: 58 confirmed (including 57 resolved)
— Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)
— Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
— Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
— Nunavut: No confirmed cases
— Total: 154,613 (0 presumptive, 154,613 confirmed including 9,271 deaths, 131,926 resolved)

With files from The Canadian Press

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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