Ontario announces free tuition for more people to pursue careers in health care
Ontario's increasingly-dire shortage of trained hospital staff could actually prove advantageous (in a roundabout way) for people in the province who are about to graduate, or simply want to change what they do for a living – with all expenses paid.
Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday that his government is expanding its Learn and Stay grant program, which provides eligible students "full, upfront funding for tuition, books and other direct educational costs," to train more health care workers beginning this spring.
Previously only available to students enrolled in nursing programs, these generous grants are now being offered to Ontario residents who are training to become paramedics or medical laboratory technologists.
The government expects about 2,500 students to benefit from the grant program during 2023 and 2024, but there are, of course, a few catches in terms of eligibility.
First, anyone who participates in the program must agree to work in the region where they studied for at least two years post-graduation.
Secondly, there are geographical requirements for some of the programs; For nursing, students must attend schools in northern, eastern or southwestern Ontario. For medical laboratory sciences, students must be enrolled in programs at schools in northern or southwestern Ontario.
People training to become paramedics are only eligible to have their expenses covered by the government if they attend school in northern Ontario.
Tune in as I join Minister @JillDunlop1 and Minister @SylviaJonesMPP in London to outline the next part of our plan to train more health care workers for under-serviced and growing communities. https://t.co/Czx2A3CHLN— Doug Ford (@fordnation) January 20, 2023
This is only the province's latest announcement of funding for residents to re-skill; Programs also exist or have existed in the past few years for people to get free educations in fields such as roofing, drywalling, electricity, auto work and other skilled trades.
"Expanding Ontario's Learn and Stay grant to include nurses, paramedics and med-techs in more underserved and growing communities is another innovative solution that’s connecting people to care, closer to home," said Ford on Friday when announcing his government's newest training program expansion.
"It's also one more way we're making sure that all Ontarians in every corner of the province, no matter where they live, have more convenient access to the care and support they need."
Exciting news! Our Learn and Stay grant is expanding to train more nurses, paramedics and lab-techs.— Doug Ford (@fordnation) January 20, 2023
This grant pays for the cost of tuition and supplies in return for a commitment to care for people in priority communities. pic.twitter.com/3oWpOcvDEc
The Learn and Stay grant program expansion announcement comes just one day after Ford revealed new proposed "as of right" rules that would allow health care workers registered in other provinces and territories to start working immediately in Ontario.
Legislation will be introduced next month that, if passed, the government says "will allow Canadian health care workers that are already registered or licensed in another Canadian jurisdiction to practice in Ontario immediately, without having to first register with one of Ontario's health regulatory colleges."
The move is meant to help address understaffing issues that have contributed toward lengthy wait times for medical care in the province, whether it be for vital surgeries or simply to be treated in an emergency room.
"As Ontario continues to expand its health workforce, patients can expect more services in their community, shorter wait times and greater access to high-quality care," said the province on Thursday, echoing the sentiments of a Monday announcement that proved rather controversial.
Ford's government has been fighting accusations all week of trying to privatize Ontario's healthcare system after stating on Monday that they intend to expand the scope of medical procedures that can be performed at privately-run clinics, as opposed to exclusively within hospitals.
"This was Doug Ford's plan all along. He has spent years starving our health care system of resources, demoralizing health care workers with his wage-capping Bill 124 and leaving Ontarians desperate for care and frustrated by his games," said Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles at the time.
"We want to be clear – he will not get away with this. People will end up paying out of pocket and face longer wait times in our hospitals, as his plan drives healthcare workers from our public system. At every turn, he proves that he doesn't care about ordinary Ontarians – just making profits for his donors and friends."
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