Ontario is investing $110 million in an effort to connect more than 300,000 people to primary care teams, Health Minister Sylvia Jones said Thursday.

The new money will go toward the province's attempts to get everyone in Ontario a primary care provider, she said.

“We are not going to stop until everyone that wants to have a primary care provider can connect to one,” Jones said at a news conference in Peterborough, Ont.

Jones said $90 million will help add 400 new providers who will go to 78 new and expanded primary care teams across the province.

That should connect 328,000 patients to a primary care team, Jones said.

Primary care teams consist of doctors, nurse practitioners, registered and practical nurses, physiotherapists and social workers, among others.

There are currently 1.3 million people in Ontario without a primary care provider, which includes nurse-practitioner led clinics, the province said.

Jones said about 90 per cent of Ontarians have some sort of primary care coverage.

“We know there is more to do to close the gap for the people in Ontario not currently connected to a primary care provider,” she said.

The province said it hopes to have 98 per cent of patients covered by a primary care team by 2032.

The Ontario Medical Association says there are 2.3 million Ontarians without a primary care doctor, a number that has grown significantly in recent years.

That number is expected to double in just two years, said Dr. Andrew Park, the association's president.

“We've been calling for investments in teams to improve access to care and to ensure doctors and health-care professionals are able to do what they do best, to take care of their patients,” Park said.

“Today's news is a big step in that direction.”

Earlier this week, the OMA had asked the province to address the family doctor shortage immediately. There are 2,500 physician jobs currently open across the province, the association said. About 40 per cent of Ontario's doctors are considering retirement in the next five years, an OMA survey of its members found.

The Registered Nurses' Association said it was “delighted” with the funding announced Thursday.

“Today's investment is the beginning of a renewed emphasis on primary care that has long been needed in the province and a sign the government understands the magnitude of access shortfalls in primary care,” said Doris Grinspun, CEO of the association.

The news comes a few days after a health-care provider in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., said 10,000 of its patients will be cut loose due to retirements and doctors closing their practices.

“Our immediate focus is to stabilize our operations and continue to provide care to 50,000 patients in our community,” said a letter from the Group Health Centre to patients last week.

Jones called the issue in the northern Ontario city “deeply disturbing.”

“There are two proposals that the community in Sault Ste. Marie brought forward that will be funded through this program,” she said.

A year ago, Jones committed $30 million to open 18 new primary care teams across the province and opened up an application process.

Jones' office said they were deluged with hundreds of applications and decided to triple the investment to $90 million for 78 teams.

An additional $20 million will go to all existing primary care teams for operational costs and supplies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2024.