The Ontario government is spending close to $1.5 million in eastern Ontario toward care for critically-ill newborns.

Health Minister Christine Elliott announced Tuesday the government would spend $420,000 to buy a specialized ambulance with a dedicated team of paramedics, who will be able to transport newborns with serious illnesses from across the region to CHEO.

“Each ambulance will be supported by a team of paramedics 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Elliott said at a press conference in Ottawa, flanked by Ottawa Paramedics. “With the equipment already inside, the paramedic team will be able to respond to the needs of critically-ill newborns and have the capacity to take on even more calls.”

CHEO is also getting $1 million from the government this year to pay for a team of specialists such as registered nurses, respiratory therapists, and neonatologists.

The money being spent in eastern Ontario is part of a $6.8 million to be spent province-wide. Five specially-equipped ambulances will be bought and staffed with teams of paramedics. The $1 million for CHEO is also a slice of $5.8 million for the four children’s hospitals in Ontario: the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Children’s Hospital of London Health Sciences Centre, the McMaster Children’s Hospital, and the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.

Government figures say roughly 2,000 children born in Ontario every year require transport for specialized treatment, which happens by land ambulance 91 per cent of the time.