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The Ontario government says it will invest an additional $330-million every year for pediatric health care, which medical and health leaders expect will help alleviate backlogs and make it easier and faster for children to get the help they need.

The government announced Wednesday that the money will go toward 100 high-priority initiatives, including hiring more surgical staff to ramp up the number of day surgeries that can be performed, investing in rapid access clinics to alleviate the strain on emergency departments and help patients get faster access to care, reducing wait times for mental-health services in hospitals and community settings, increasing access to psychosocial supports for pediatric cancer patients and eating disorder programs, and investing in immunization catch-up programs.

“Increasing our investments for pediatric services will ensure children and youth in Ontario can depend on a strong health care system that is there for them now and in the future,” Health Minister Sylvia Jones said in a statement.

Ontario children and adolescents have been enduring excessive wait times that could have lifelong consequences on their health. Earlier this month, The Globe and Mail reported that two-thirds of pediatric patients in need of surgery at two of the largest children’s hospitals in the province are waiting beyond the recommended window because of staffing shortages and inadequate resources. At one of those hospitals, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, the wait list for surgery soared to more than 6,500, the highest it has ever been.

Emily Gruenwoldt, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Healthcare Canada, a national advocacy organization, welcomed the Ontario government’s Wednesday announcement, calling it “a remarkable and historic investment in children’s health systems” in the province and “precedent setting, we hope for other jurisdictions.”

Ms. Gruenwoldt said it’s a major achievement that the funding is going to be built into the budget on a yearly basis and will go toward hospitals, clinics and community programs that help ensure children and adolescents get the care they need, regardless of where they are in the system.

“These investments should make a very measurable difference.”

As with children’s surgery, wait times for other pediatric health services, including diagnostic imaging, developmental and mental-health assessments, and rehabilitation have also increased in recent years.

The problems have become so severe that a coalition of Ontario pediatric health providers came together last year to develop an action plan urging the government to significantly increase spending in order to address the challenges facing the system.

Alex Munter, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, said the new funding is a milestone moment that will help improve health outcomes for children across the province.

“Definitely hundreds of thousands of kids every year will benefit,” he said. “Putting kids on the path to lifelong health is a down payment for their future and for all our futures.”

While health providers have not yet received their funding letters from the province, Mr. Munter said he suspects the new money will help CHEO hire more staff to address some of the existing backlogs.

He said there are about 36,000 patients on CHEO’s wait lists for outpatient care, which includes surgery, mental health and diagnostic imaging. Two-thirds of those patients have been waiting longer than clinically recommended.

“This is a problem that was accumulated over two decades, so it will not be fixed in a calendar year.”

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