Our government is committed to making the investments necessary to continue to improve access and outcomes for Ontario patients by increasing health-care funding by $1 billion this year to $51.8 billion.
We know that our hospitals are a key component of our health-care system. That is why we are increasing funding for Ontario's hospitals by more than $345 million this year. That includes an increase in base funding for every hospital in Ontario, as well as increased funding for procedures like hip and knee replacements. But we're also investing more than $3 billion this year to build new and improved hospitals, with 35 major hospital projects either under construction or being planned right across the province.
But health care is about more than hospitals. That's why we're continuing to increase funding for home and community care by $250 million this year. We are providing $10 million to better support long-term care residents living with dementia, other complex behaviours and neurological conditions. And we are almost doubling our investment in community-based hospice and palliative care, increasing our funding by $75 million, for a total of $155 million over three years because it is critically important we get this province’s end-of-life care right.
In order to improve access to primary care, we’re investing an additional $85 million to ensure inter-professional clinics can continue to improve services.
The 2016 Ontario budget also offers several key benefits for our seniors and Ontario’s aging population. Notably, the government intends to make the shingles vaccine free for Ontarians aged 65 to 70. This will save eligible seniors about $170 each in out-of-pocket expenses for the vaccine. It will also reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations for vaccinated seniors.
Currently, seniors in Ontario have among the lowest on average out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs among all the provinces. Our government plans to expand access to the low-income seniors’ drug benefit program for over 170,000 more seniors this year, and approximately 30,000 more every year going forward. Starting Aug. 1, almost half-a-million Ontario seniors would pay no annual deductible and a co-payment of $2 or less per prescription.
Our government has consulted with Ontarians – including seniors groups like CARP and others – and will continue to consult on the correct income thresholds for an improved Ontario Drug Benefit, with a view to creating a fair, sustainable system that remains among the most generous in Canada. We want to develop a program that will still be here when our children and our grandchildren need it.
Our government will continue to ensure that Ontarians enjoy a high-quality health-care system that is sustainable for generations to come. I am proud of the investments we're making in Budget 2016, which deliver on our key health priorities and will make Ontario's health-care system even stronger.
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