Ford announces expansion to Learn and Stay grant for local EMS services

Part of what was announced was an expansion to the Learn and Stay grant program to include paramedics and medical lab technicians.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in London on Jan. 20 to announce that the province is working with Middlesex-London on multiple fronts to combat the city’s healthcare crisis.

Ford was joined by Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Sylvia Jones. Part of what was announced was an expansion to the Learn and Stay grant program to include paramedics and medical lab technicians. Previously, the program was only available to those studying nursing.

The grant, introduced in March 2022, provides upfront funding to cover tuition, books, and educational costs for students in certain programs in priority communities. As part of the grant, students must commit to working in the region post-graduation for a minimum of six months for every year of study funded by grant.

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“Students can apply for full upfront funding at select colleges and universities, if they commit to staying in their region,” Premier Ford said during the press conference. “We’ll pay for your tuition, your books, and other direct educational costs for a practical nursing program in London, for a paramedic program in Sudbury, or for a medical laboratory program in Windsor.”

The program started with a capacity of 1,500 students, but has recently been expanded to 2,500. Programs at Fanshawe that are eligible for this grant are the Bachelor of Nursing and Practical Nursing programs. Applications for the program will be available online this spring for programs beginning in the fall.

“We’re providing students with opportunities for a great education and a rewarding career and we’re increasing the number of health care workers in underserved communities so that Ontarians in every corner of the province get the quality of care they need closer to home.”

In addition to the expansion of the grant, the province is working with local officials to help ease the recently announced budget increase for paramedic services. An increase of 18 per cent, around $9.3 million dollars, will hit taxpayers in order to help mitigate an increase in calls and offload times.

Middlesex County warden Cathy Burghardt-Jesson stressed that while the county may be the service provider for paramedic services, it’s more of a partnership between the city of London and the county.

“We are having discussions with the province to try and get these innovative and out of the box programs into the Middlesex-London region, such as the treat and refer to alternative destinations,” she explained. “These are key to making sure that the bottlenecks that we're seeing in emergency services can be addressed.”

Neal Roberts, the chief of the Middlesex- London Emergency Medical Services Authority, added that having more community-based care will take pressure off the emergency services.

“If you can’t get in to your primary care physician, you’re getting more preventative care in the community to avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency department,” Roberts explained. “This is part of a comprehensive plan that we have been working on with the province on both a city and county level.”