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Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews is shown on Feb. 11, 2013.

PETER POWER/The Globe and Mail

The Ontario government is pouring money into community health clinics in a bid to get more patients out of hospital.

Health Minister Deb Matthews on Tuesday unveiled $60-million over three years to repair and expand existing community health centres – non-profit organizations that provide medical services – and create new ones.

"It takes our investing in the community to the next level," Ms. Matthews said at a francophone health clinic in Toronto. "People receiving care here, if this wasn't here, they would be in the emergency department. We really need to beef up our community investments to keep people healthy and out of hospital."

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The dollars will be put in a new fund, and health centres can apply for money from it.

"Many of our buildings have been around for over 40 years. They are old, they need to be replaced, their roofs need to be replaced, and there was no ability for them to have any money to keep their infrastructure current," said Adrianna Tetley, CEO of the Association of Ontario Health Centres. "This is very much the first step in building that foundation for an integrated and not fragmented health and social services system."

The announcement is the latest in a string of social spending pledges the government is making ahead of the budget. Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberals are trying to shore up their reputation as the party of health care, education and other government services ahead of a possible spring election.

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