Free COVID-19 Rapid Tests Available till June 2023, Ford Allocates Funding for Nursing Education

Health Minister Sylvia Jones announced alongside Premier Doug Ford that Ontario will continue to supply free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for six more months. The announcement comes amid the triple threat of respiratory illnesses this flu season. The program was initially set to end on December 31.

“This year’s triple threat of influenza, RSV, and COVID-19 has placed extra demands on the healthcare system across the country. We continue to encourage all Ontarians to stay up to date with their vaccines, including getting your available booster dose and your flu shot,” said Sylvia Jones. She went on to state that the government is extending the free rapid antigen test program in grocery stores and pharmacies throughout the province till June 30, 2023.

Without the six-month extension, the program would have ended on December 31 this year. It was first stated in February of this year to help people self-diagnose and take the necessary precautions, without having to visit a clinic or hospital for a test. Since February, about 5.5 million tests were distributed each week.

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Additionally, it was announced that the government will give the Michener Institute over $4.6 million to “remove financial barriers for nurses wanting to upskill to work in critical care areas of hospitals.” Around 600 nurses are expected to complete their upskill education by the spring of 2023. The funding will be used to pay for college and hospital costs and provide free tuition for students. “It’s all hands on deck as we use every tool we have to get more nurses working in Ontario right now,” Ford added.

Furthermore, Ford also announced plans to invest $9.4 million in nursing education at colleges across the province. This comes in response to the staffing shortages being faced by hospitals and medical institutions. Jones explained that the funding will be given to support accelerated critical care nursing programs at Conestoga College in Kitchener, George Brown College and Centennial College in Toronto, Mohawk College in Hamilton, St. Lawrence College in Kingston, and Laurentian University in Sudbury.

The announcement brings some relief to the hospitals and medical institutions currently suffering from an overwhelming number of patients, staff shortages, and medicine shortages. Recently, it was announced that about a million doses of pain-relieving medication that was ordered internationally have arrived at pharmacies. Children’s hospitals are also negatively impacted by the triple threat of Influenza, RSV, and COVID-19.

Vineet Washington

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