ServiceOntario centres to consolidate health card, licence, vehicle registration
Published Wednesday, July 22, 2009 3:57PM EDT
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Ontario residents will no longer have to travel as far and line up as long to get their hands on a health card or driver's licence as the province significantly increases the locations which provide the services.
Minister of Government Services Harinder Takhar announced plans Wednesday to merge health card, licence and vehicle registration facilities at integrated ServiceOntario centres starting this fall.
The announcement means health cards, which were available from only 27 Ontario provincial health plan offices, can now be picked up from 300 locations.
"The priority of the government was to provide integrated one-stop-shopping,"said Takhar. "This is a major step forward to providing great value for money and excellent service to Ontarians."
For residents in rural and northern communities the plan means no longer having to drive long distances to pick up a health card.
Rural residents, who previously had only two locations to choose from, will be able to pick up health cards from 160 centres. Northern communities will see an expansion from six health card centres to 67 integrated offices.
Now nearly 95 per cent of all Ontario residents will be within 10 kilometres of an integrated ServiceOntario centre, said Takhar.
The integrated centres will become fully operational over the next 18 months to simplify and speed up health card and licence renewals across Ontario.
Currently, only two ServiceOntario centres offer all services in one location.
Amakoe Amah, 55, had to drive 30 minutes to Mississauga, Ont., from his home in Brampton, Ont., to get to the nearest health card centre. He said having everything under one roof would be easier on his wallet.
"It would be closer so I will save gas and I will save time as well," he said, adding that he expected to spend about two hours waiting to be served at the crowded centre.
Kelly Malone, also from Brampton, stood in line with her mother to collect her health card in Mississauga. The 22-year-old said she would take advantage of the new centres as soon as they opened near her.
"I wouldn't travel all the way out here to get it anymore," she said.
Takhar said the integration took a few years to come about because health cards and licences existed under different ministries and had to be carefully brought together.
The integration plans will not cost the province any more than what had already been budgeted for the services, he said.
The long-term plan is to have health cards and licences expire on the same date and require only one visit for simultaneous renewal, said Takhar.
The ministry is also working to update its systems so only one photograph and signature will be needed for both cards, Takhar said.