TIMMINS -- The province said Friday it is spending $35 million to increase enrollment in nursing education programs in colleges and universities throughout Ontario.

It wants an increase of around 1,100 new practical nurses and close to a thousand new registered nurses.

“This just wasn’t a random number that we picked out of thin air and said we really want this many nurses — 2,004 is the number — we worked collaboratively to get to that point with our stakeholders," said Ross Romano, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Northern College officials are glad their input was taken into account, but they said they need funding to train additional students.

“We’re encouraging the ministry now to look at how we can expand. In terms of the space, in terms of us being able to offer it, that is not the challenge, it’s merely to get the funding to support it," said Audrey Penner.

"And another key issue is placements, and ensuring that people get the placements that help with them with the work-integrated learning aspects that healthcare has always been so well known for."

More nurses needed for care

Local physicians who treat patients with addictions have asked the province for more nurses, and patients who've said they're not receiving their full quota of home care hours have also been advocating for more nurses.

The province said the announcement is the start to addressing an area that's been overlooked for the past 15 years.

“By creating more of these training opportunities and training positions that are very much needed, we are creating a supply that will eventually go to many, many different areas because people have that choice as they train to become a registered practical nurse; a registered nurse," said Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.

"They have the choice where they want to be."

The province said COVID-19 has exacerbated the gap between the current supply of nurses and its announcement Friday will help it reach its goal of providing four hours of direct care per day to people living in long-term care.