How Ontario’s Universities are Rebuilding a World-Class Health-Care System

A healthy economy depends on a healthy population. As Ontario rebuilds its health-care system from COVID-19, it needs a highly skilled health-care workforce and ground-breaking innovation to address increasingly complex challenges, such as the long-term impacts of the pandemic, the needs of an aging population, as well as a backlog of elective surgeries and routine procedures.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in our health-care system, along with the need to increase self-sufficiency and resiliency to help protect us against future risks.
  • A 2021 report released by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office estimates that it will take more than three years to eliminate the backlogs and cost approximately $1.3 billion. This need was further highlighted by the province’s $324-million investment to help run hospitals at 115 per cent to catch up on surgeries.
  • At the same time, many doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals are burning out and plan to leave the profession due to the challenges they’ve experienced during the pandemic. It means the health-care sector is facing an unprecedented wave of unplanned early retirements and resignations.
  • Ontario will need a strong pipeline of workers in health care, life sciences and medical technologies to address the labour shortage and backlog within Ontario’s health-care system.
  • In addition, innovation in health care is critical to navigate through COVID-19 and beyond, through future outbreaks and the rapidly changing needs of the province’s health-care system.
  • Due to the type of research and innovation that was already taking place at universities, many rapid responses to COVID-19 were made possible. For example, early research in virology at an Ontario university lab in the 1970s has played a key role in informing and advancing the COVID-19 vaccine work done by University of Oxford researchers, which helped support the rapid development of vaccines to address the pandemic.
“Ontario’s universities produced the scientists, public health professionals, and policy advisors that are on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontario’s universities will continue to play a role in our ability to tackle complex, cross-sectoral issues, be they future pandemics, poverty and food insecurity, the consequences of climate change or the development of new energy systems. These issues necessitate the kind of engagement across disciplinary boundaries that universities make possible."
Making an Impact
on Health Care
Hand holding vaccine strip
Developing a new method of vaccine delivery
Sterilizing masks using UV light technology
Building interactive tools to support hospitals’ modelling capacity
How Universities Are
Supporting Ontario

Amid the challenges brought on by COVID-19, Ontario’s universities are helping Ontario rebuild its health-care system by meeting the need for a strong health-care workforce, creating Ontario-made innovations and advancing health-focused research.

Universities graduate more than 10,000 students from health-care programs. They have the ability to educate and train greater numbers of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and other health professionals and managers needed to navigate COVID-19 and beyond in order to reduce the growing burden placed on our province’s health-care system.

University researchers are also conducting ground-breaking research in health care that has led to vaccine development, treatments and outcomes modeling, supporting the fight against COVID-19.

There is strong demand in the health-care programs universities offer and record-high applications to these programs. This highly skilled, in-demand talent is ready to meet the need today and into the future, ensuring Ontario’s patients receive critical care.

Due to the type of research and innovation that was already taking place at universities, many rapid responses to COVID-19 were made possible. For example, early research in virology at an Ontario university lab in the 1970s has played a key role in informing and advancing the COVID-19 vaccine work done by University of Oxford researchers, which helped support the rapid development of vaccines to address the pandemic.
Partnering to Rebuild Ontario
Vibrant universities will continue to develop adaptable talent, help rebuild our health-care system, as well as drive innovation and regional economic development.

It is why in order to fully unleash this potential, Ontario’s universities are asking that the government — through increases to university revenue sources, such as expanding spaces in high-demand programs to ensure a strong health-care workforce — make critical investments in the sector today to rebuild a better Ontario for tomorrow.


By working together, we can navigate through this pandemic, safeguard Ontario’s health and economy and build a brighter future – not just for the students we teach and the communities we serve, but for Ontario’s future and all who live here.
Read the Report

In Partnering to Drive Ontario’s Recovery through Talent and Innovation, we outline how, as Ontario looks to rebuild and recover from COVID-19, Ontario’s universities are at the forefront of rebuilding a world-class health-care system; developing job-ready graduates; driving regional economic development; and creating solutions to Ontario’s challenges.

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