TORONTO — Ontario’s fiscal watchdog says it will take the province approximately three and a half years to clear the surgical backlog from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Financial Accountability Office projects that the backlog of cancelled surgeries will reach 419,200 procedures by the end of September.
The FAO estimates it will cost the province $1.3 billion to clear the backlog, and notes the government has allocated $610 million in its latest budget to address the issue.
The watchdog says its projections on clearing the backlog assumes hospitals will be able to operate at 11 per cent above pre-pandemic volumes in the coming years.
Overall, the FAO says the province will have a $61.9 billion spending shortfall in the health-care sector over the next nine years.
It says if the province intends to reach its health sector spending targets it will need to introduce new spending-restraint measures.
Meanwhile, Ontario is lowering the age of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to 40 across the province this week as it continues to expand its rollout.
The province says the expanded age eligibility will take effect Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, people with health conditions deemed “at risk,” such as heart disease and dementia, will be able to make an appointment starting Tuesday morning.
Half of vaccine supply is being diverted to COVID-19 hot spots this week, based on the recommendation of the province’s scientific advisers.
Starting next week, vaccines are set to be distributed per capita once again.
Over the weekend, hundreds of pharmacies in COVID-19 hot spots began offering Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots to people aged 18 and over.