Province backs plan to bring cardiovascular surgery to northwestern Ontario

The provincial government has announced $5.2 million in funding for planning and design of a cardiovascular surgery program in Northwestern Ontario.

An effort called Our Hearts at Home has been working to raise money for the project at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. The project would renovate existing space to include a new surgical suite, inpatient beds, and other facilities.

Currently, people in need of cardiovascular surgery must travel out of Northwestern Ontario to receive the care. The Health Sciences Foundation says Northwestern Ontario has the highest rate of heart disease but also the longest average travel distance to access cardiovascular surgical services.

According to a news release from the Ontario Ministry of Health, 206 patients traveled outside of the region for cardiovascular surgeries and post-operative care in 2020-2021, with most making the ten-hour drive to Tornto.

"Investing in key health services and expanding hospital capacity is essential to supporting Ontario’s surgical recovery and building a connected health care system for all Ontarians, no matter where they live," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, in a news release.

The Ministry of Health said the new program in Thunder Bay will help increase capacity and address surgical wait times in other parts of the provice that currently serve patients from Northwestern Ontario.