Health Care
Health Care

With more than 50 hospitals and some 130,000 people employed in the health care industry, Toronto is Canada’s major health care centre due to the number of teaching hospitals and research networks like MaRs and also health-related think-tanks, such as the Wellesley Institute

In recent years, the system is going through a transformation due to changing demographics, an aging and expanding population, changes in population health status, increasing patient expectations, and impact of technology on medical practice.

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (MOHLTC) recently identified the following health system trends: person-centered care, sustainability, productivity, and innovation in the health care system, chronic disease prevention and management, human resources management, mental health addictions, e-health, public and population health, and health care facility infrastructure. These have been outlined in the MOHLTC 2011-2012 Operational Plan. The impetus for these strategic objectives is for Ontario to have healthier people, healthier communities and a better system.

Achieving the goals outlined in the Operational Plan will have a significant impact on the health care delivery system of Toronto. Provincial policies and programs have a significant impact on human resources management and meeting the MOHLTC objectives outlined above. Toronto is challenged with matching local health-care labour demand for trained and certified health professionals.

The emerging responses to the existing challenges are:

• expanded scope of practice health professional.

• integrated health care teams.

• increasing the capacity to train health professionals.

In order to make the most of too few health professionals, in 2009, Ontario passed legislation to allow nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dieticians, midwives and medical radiation technologists to deliver more services. The legislation also changed the rules in relation to administering, prescribing, dispensing, compounding, selling and using drugs to administer, for chiropodists and podiatrists, dental hygienists, dentists, midwives, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physiotherapists and respiratory therapists.

Toronto recruits many International Medical Graduates (IMG), in particular from India and South Africa. The number of full-time IMGs in Ontario increased from 6743 in 2000 to 719,760 in 2009. Therefore, the workforce itself is changing to meet the increased demand through extending the career of health-care providers (e.g. Ontario’s Late Career Nurse Initiative) and increasing the opportunity for full-time employment of new nursing graduates (New Graduate Guarantee).

Lately, significant improvements have been made in the use of information technology, particularly in the use of electronic medical records. E-health solutions are viewed as one of the key methods of modernizing the health-care system. The Internet and mobile phone technologies are becoming an important medium in the delivery of care services, especially to patients with chronic conditions. These technologies include web-based public health interventions, telemental health programs, and automated physical activity programs, home monitoring programs after hospital discharge, online pharmacists care, remote diagnostics of health conditions, integrated health management devices and online services.

The health care system is altering the infrastructure in order to meet infection control standards and the demands and needs of a changing population. A new long-term care plan has been developed to upgrade hospital facilities, including single patient rooms, ergonomic intervention in nursing homes and other health-care facilities, green building designs and sustainable practices.

Labour Force

As of June 2009, there were 8 022 businesses, close to 4% of the total business operating in the health care sector. The majority of businesses in the Ambulatory Health Care Services are small firms. More women than men work in the medical and ambulatory health services in Toronto (74.1%).

Age profile 

Age distribution follows the same pattern as that of the Canadian industry average, with the following relative weights for the each group: workers under 35 years of age make up only 26.0% of the workforce; the central age bracket (35-54) is the largest in medical and health care sector with 49.0%; and finally, the percentage of employees aged 55+ is 25%. In 2008, the average age of the physician workforce was 49.8, an increase of 5.1 years since 1994.

Educational attainment 

In the Toronto region health-care professionals are highly educated with over 80% having post-secondary degree or diploma. Rapidly changing technology has made continuing education a high priority. A number of universities in the Toronto CMA offer programs in health sciences and medical laboratory science. Some offer an integrated program that combines skills needed on the job and a more general education.

Key facts 
  • The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is one of the North America’s largest centres for health-care. There are 105 hospitals and medical facilities located here.
  • The number of seniors is projected to more than double in Toronto by 2030. Even faster growth is projected for the oldest age group 90+ rising by 147%.
  • The aging baby boomer generation may significantly alter health services, including increased use of homecare, increased visits of doctors, additional diagnostic testing, alternative services such as elder care, palliative care and respite care.
  • The e-health sector is growing rapidly through active collaboration between private firms and the GTA’s health sciences community. An increasing number of private sector companies such as Intel, Google, Microsoft and Telus are developing e-health applications and tools for health-care staff and patients.
  • Mount Sinai Hospital, affiliated with the University of Toronto Medical School was named one of the best in October 2010.
  • The University Health Network is one of Canada's largest acute-care teaching organizations and the primary teaching hospital for the University of Toronto.
  • The Hospital for Sick Children has an international reputation for clinical care and research. The hospital has been the site of many pioneering discoveries and procedures in recent decades including the first bone marrow transplant program and major research in the area of hereditary diseases.