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Ontario extends program that helps rural and northern hospitals avoid ER closures

A program that helps rural and northern hospitals bring in temporary doctors will be extended for six months. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A program that helps rural and northern hospitals bring in temporary doctors will be extended for six months. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Ontario is extending a program that helps rural and northern hospitals avoid temporary ER closures for another six months.

The province established what's now known as the Temporary Locum Program during the pandemic and has renewed it several times, often at the last minute.

It had been set to expire again at the end of this month, and the Ministry of Health has now told eligible hospitals that it will now be in effect until Sept. 30.

Many of the province's more isolated hospitals rely on doctors from urban areas filling shifts on what is known as a locum basis, and the Temporary Locum Program pays them a premium as an incentive.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones has said the government is working on a permanent solution with the Ontario Medical Association.

NDP health critic France Gelinas has said the government needs to come up with a permanent solution now, instead of constantly renewing the program on a temporary basis at the last minute.