Trudeau announces $240M for virtual health-care services

Ottawa is boosting access to existing services and launching new platforms for mental health and primary care

Ottawa is investing $240.5 million in online mental health services during the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his Sunday morning press conference.

Existing online tools will be expanded, and new virtual platforms for mental health and primary care will be created, along with specialized programs for those in marginalized communities.

“If we can use apps to order dinner and video chats to stay in touch with family, we can use new technology to keep each other healthy,” Trudeau said, noting telehealth allows patients to stay home and receive support to ease the burden on hospitals and clinics. 

This news comes after the government launched the Wellness Together program, which provides tools and resources to help those struggling with anxiety, stress or substance use, in April. At the time, Trudeau also invested $7.5 million into Kids Help Phone, while Premier Doug Ford announced a $12-million investment into digital health services. 

Since the start of the pandemic, virtual health care has quickly grown. Ontario’s services include Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), a non-profit government initiative Women’s College Hospital, which is on its way to becoming the country’s first virtual hospital and a new program at SickKids, to name a few. 

Maple, the country’s largest national telehealth network, which provides both mental health and primary care services, went from seeing an average of 1,000 patients a day to 4,000.

The doctors behind many of these programs have been hoping to see more sustainable public funding in an effort to bring more services to those in marginalized regions of the country, along with more affordable options, as much of the virtual health-care space has been flooded by expensive, private companies.

Trudeau also announced more than $175 million in funding for Vancouver-based biotech firm AbCellera. The company has identified antibodies that could be used for COVID-19 treatment, and human trials could take place as early as July.

The prime minister also said Ottawa will establish a COVID-19 supply council, mandated to find “innovative solutions” that ensure the country has a consistent supply of personal protective equipment as demand for masks, gloves and hand sanitizer increases from the private sector.


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