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Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones listens to questions from reporters following a press conference in Etobicoke, Ont., on Jan. 11.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones says the province is starting three programs aimed at bolstering staffing in the health care sector.

A $40-million fund to encourage health care providers to better connect patients to services, a program to allow internationally trained physicians to work more quickly, and a nursing mentor program were all previously announced but are now launching.

The announcement comes as hospitals across the province grapple with a shortage of nurses that has led to dozens of temporary ER closings – the arbitrator who set hospital nurses’ new contract says there are 9,000 registered nurse vacancies.

The Models of Care Innovation Fund will give funding to hospitals, family-health teams and other health organizations for projects to allow faster access to care and boost health care worker capacity, such as a staffing pool between hospitals and virtual peer support for ER doctors in rural areas.

A Clinical Scholar Program will pair an experienced front-line nurse as a mentor with newly graduated or internationally trained nurses, which Ms. Jones says will both help those nurses and will help retain experienced nurses.

As well, the province says a “practice ready” program for internationally trained physicians removes barriers for them and will see 50 new doctors working in Ontario by 2024.

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