Ontario supports Belleville ICU expansion, provides increased annual funding for Quinte Health Care

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 2020

Belleville – The Ontario government is building critical health-care capacity in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties through investments of close to $14 million in Quinte Health Care (QHC) hospitals.

Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, and Daryl Kramp, MPP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington, announced today that the Province is providing a 6.1-per-cent increase in base operating funding for QHC. That total reflects the annualization of a $5-million increase announced in 2019-2020 as part of a top-up fund to support small- and medium-sized hospitals, plus an additional investment of $4,661,555 in 2020-2021.  

To be clear, that's an additional $9,661,555 this funding year alone on top of the $5-million increase for 2019-2020 announced in October.

Further, the government will invest $4.3 million in one-time capital funding to increase capacity in Belleville General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit to 18 beds from the current 14.  Expansion construction is to begin this summer.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of having modern, functional hospital facilities with sufficient capacity to meet any eventuality,” said Smith. “Today, we’re delivering on our promise to rebuild our health-care system with tangible commitments to support the front lines of care.”

Added Kramp:  “These are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary measures. That is why our government is investing millions in hospitals to ensure their ongoing readiness. This includes funding for up to 1,000 acute care beds, 500 critical care beds, and assessment centres.  Our goal is clear. We are going to protect the health of Ontarians.”

Stuart Wright, the Chairman of QHC’s board of directors, had long advocated for the Province to address funding inequities affecting multi-site hospitals. He expressed satisfaction the government has listened.

“MPPs Todd Smith and Daryl Kramp made a commitment last October that the one-time funding dollars announced at that time would be a bridge that leads to the eventual right-sizing of QHC’s annual base funding,” Wright said. “Today, our local MPP partners have fulfilled that commitment, putting our hospital funding levels on par with other hospitals in Ontario. Thank you for seeing the inequity and taking the actions needed to correct this long-standing challenge.”

Mary Clare Egberts, QHC’s President and Chief Executive Officer, added the Intensive Care Unit upgrade will benefit patients not just from Belleville, but across the region.

“I am exceedingly grateful for the support needed from the province to move ahead with expanding the regional Intensive Care Unit, located at Belleville General Hospital. Expanding the unit is integral to meeting the increased patient care needs of the sickest patients in the areas served by all four QHC hospitals. This will allow our team of dedicated staff and physicians the appropriate space required for extending safe, quality patient care for acutely ill patients.”

Both announcements are reflective of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, released March 25.  At that time, the government committed to an additional $935 million in new investments for Ontario hospitals. Some $594 million will support hospitals in meeting current and future demand for regular services – a three-per-cent increase from 2019-2020.  An additional $341 million was committed to ongoing readiness to treat an increasing number of COVID-19 patients. The commitment also provides stable, equitable funding.

“We have listened to patients, frontline staff and key stakeholders to determine how we can fix historical inequities to provide financial stability and relief to hospitals, regardless of their size,” said Minister of Health and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE

Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 – budget.ontario.ca/2020/marchupdate/action-plan.html

 


Ontario’s new broadband fund to connect residents and businesses in Bay of Quinte

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 2020

Bay of Quinte – The Ontario government has announced an investment of $150 million over four years to address much-needed broadband infrastructure across unserved and underserved regions of the province, MPP Todd Smith announced.

This investment looks to connect more residents and businesses in Hastings and Prince Edward counties to reliable broadband and cellular service.

The Improving Connectivity in Ontario, or ICON, has the potential to leverage up to $500 million in total partner funding. 

“I have heard from many of my constituents, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges they face in staying connected with limited to access to cellular and broadband connectivity, said Smith. “I am proud to see our government announcing this significant investment to bring the people of Bay of Quinte one step closer to more reliable connectivity.”

Once the ICON program opens its initial application intake later this month, applicants – telecom companies, municipal governments, Indigenous communities and non-profits – will be invited to submit innovative proposals to lend their investment, expertise and experience to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The province will fund a portion of each approved project. 

“Now more than ever before, our government recognizes that the people of Ontario need to be connected to learn, work, and run their businesses. This program is an important step toward bridging the digital divide,” said Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott.

The Improving Connectivity in Ontario program is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan, which includes $315-million to improve and expand cellular service and broadband in rural and remote communities across Ontario. That plan also includes a separate $71-million investment in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s $212-million public-private partnership to improve cellular coverage within the region.

In the span of a year, Ontario has advanced initiatives to improve access to broadband and cellular service across eastern, western and northern Ontario. All of these initiatives are expected to generate more than $1 billion in investments over five years.

QUICK FACTS

  • As many as 12 per cent of households in Ontario – mostly in rural, remote or northern areas – are underserved or unserved, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
  • In the past several months, Ontario has partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to leverage $213 million to improve access to cellular and mobile broadband in eastern Ontario
  • The Province is investing in the $190 million Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project to bring high-speed broadband to 50,000 more homes and businesses across Southwestern Ontario. Recently, SWIFT Inc. awarded contracts to bring high-speed internet to thousands of homes and businesses in Lambton, Wellington and Norfolk counties. More contracts are expected for additional counties across southwestern Ontario.
  • Ontario has invested in initiatives to improve connectivity in northern Ontario, such as a project that will connect five remote Matawa-member First Nation communities, and investments in broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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Ontario government commits $17 billion in response to COVID-19 as part of its spring economic update

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2020

Bay of Quinte – Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte and Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, welcomed the government’s significant investment of $17 billion to address COVID-19 as part of Minister of Finance Rod Phillips’ March Economic and Fiscal Update.

“My top priority is keeping Bay of Quinte families safe and well,” said Smith. “Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 will provide our health-care workers the tools they need, while also providing tangible relief to the people of Ontario and to our business community as well.”

A critical first step to position the Province to weather the challenges ahead, the $17-billion package will provide $3.3 billion to bolster health care, $3.7 billion to support people and jobs, and an additional $10 billion to improve cash flow through tax deferrals and other measures.

Within today’s announcement, the government is showing historic levels of fiscal prudence. In addition to an unprecedented $2.5 billion reserve, the plan includes a dedicated $1-billion contingency fund as part of the additional investment in health care and a $1.3-billion contingency fund to respond to changing global circumstances.  The government is projecting a $9.2-billion deficit in 2019-2020 – an improvement of $1.1 billion relative to the 2019 budget – and, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, is planning for a $20.5-billion deficit in 2020-2021.  Phillips has also committed to releasing a full multi-year budget by Nov. 15, 2020.

“Our government has taken a responsible approach that will allow us to make life more manageable, while still having the ability to reassess changing conditions and prepare for the future,” said Smith.

The specific measures included in today’s action plan are as follows…

HEALTH CARE

Investments of $2.1-billion in new measures related to COVID-19, $1.2 billion to improve health-care system.

 A commitment of a dedicated $1-billion COVID-19 contingency fund for emergency needs related to the pandemic response.

  • Investment of $935 million for the hospital sector, including $594 million to accelerate progress on the government’s commitment to address capacity issues, as well as $341 million for an additional 1,000 acute care and 500 critical care beds and additional assessment centres.
  • An increase of $160 million in public health funding to support COVID-19 monitoring, surveillance, and laboratory and home testing, while also investing in virtual care and Telehealth Ontario.
  • An investment of $243 million for surge capacity in the long-term care sector, as well as funding for 24/7 screening, more staffing to support infection control, and supplies and equipment to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • An investment of $75 million to supply personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to frontline staff to tackle COVID-19.

 PEOPLE AND JOBS

 Investments of $2 billion for targeted supports, $1.5 billion for electricity cost relief, and $290 billion for electricity cost relief.

  • The provision of a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, to help families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures during the COVID-19 outbreak. This funding is also available for children enrolled in private schools.
  • A proposal to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments for low-income seniors for six months.
  • Provision of approximately $5.6 billion for electricity cost relief programs for eligible residential, farm, and small business consumers in 2020-2021, an increase of about $1.5 billion in comparison to the 2019 Budget plan.
  • Provision of further support for more affordable electricity bills by setting electricity prices for residential, farm, and small business time-of-use customers at the lowest rate, known as off-peak, 24 hours a day for 45 days to support ratepayers in their increased daytime usage due to COVID-19.
  • Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption.
  • The provision of $9 million in direct support for families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for non-payment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Providing emergency childcare options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health-care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers.
  • Provision of expanded access to the emergency assistance program administered by Ontario Works to provide financial support to people facing economic hardship and help more people meet basic needs such as food and rent during this public health emergency.
  • Enhancing funding by $148 million for charitable and non-profit social services organizations such as food banks, homeless shelters, churches, and emergency services to improve their ability to respond to COVID-19 by providing funding directly to Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Service Administrative Boards who would allocate this funding based on local needs.
  • Providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief, leaving more money in people’s pockets.
  • Helping to support regions lagging in employment growth with a proposed new corporate income tax credit, the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit.
  • Providing additional supports of $26 million to Indigenous Peoples and communities, including emergency assistance for urban Indigenous people in financial need, and costs for health-care professionals and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations.

CASH FLOW SUPPORTS

Providing $10 billion to support improved cash flow for people and businesses during COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Making available $6 billion by providing five months of interest and penalty-free relief for businesses to file and make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes.
  • Deferring the upcoming June 30 quarterly municipal remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days, which provides municipalities the flexibility to, in turn, provide property tax deferrals to residents and businesses while ensuring school boards continue to receive their funding. A measure valued at over $1.8 billion.
  • Making available $1.9 billion by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, allowing employers to defer payments for up to six months.

QUICK FACTS

  • The March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update provides planning assumptions for the year ahead. The government will provide regular updates of the Province’s fiscal and economic outlook throughout the year.
  • Ontario’s $2.5-billion reserve fund is the highest in its history.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19: https://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2020/03/ontarios-action-plan-responding-to-covid-19.html

General information on COVID-19: www.ontario.ca/coronavirus

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