WINDSOR, ONT. -- Wait times for elective and non-urgent surgeries is a growing problem in Ontario, but hospital administrators are hopeful a new funding stream announced by the province will bring the number of people waiting down.

The new $30-million Surgical Innovation Fund is designed to support Ontario’s hospitals and provide them with the flexibility they need to perform more surgeries.

A handful of regional hospitals in Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent and Sarnia confirm to CTV News they have jointly applied to the fund.

If approved, Erie Shores Health Care is putting a priority on getting more trained Operating Room nurses with the funding.

“Having that staff available is probably one of the biggest factors to having an efficiently run OR from end-to-end,” says Priyanka Philip, the director of outpatient services at Erie Shores Health Care in Leamington.

“Any funding that would potentially flow through this surgical innovation opportunity would allow us to implement that and free up a lot of resources for other procedures,” she says.

The funding couldn’t come soon enough for the nearly 10,000 people across Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent currently on that wait list for procedures such as colonoscopies, orthopedic procedures like knee and hip work, tonsillectomies, hernias and gallbladder surgeries.

“Yeah, we have free health care, but you may have to wait years to get it,” says Celeste Kurcz, who has been suffering from gallstones for eight months.

“How bad does it have to get? They said unless you have jaundice or an extreme fever, we’re not going to touch you,” says the 34-year-old mother of a 10-month-old.

Since her diagnosis, Kurcz has been back and forth to the ER with regular, prolonged gallbladder attacks.

She believes Ontario’s decision to pause elective surgeries during the third wave of the pandemic is forcing her and others to wait in pain.

Just last week, Kurcz finally got the call from her surgeon and is due to go under the knife at the end of June.

“I’m one of the lucky ones, but still nonetheless, I had to jump through hoops,” she says. “I was getting desperate. I just wanted help.”

Kurcz is thankful for the hard work of frontline medical staff during the pandemic and is more critical of government decision-makers for the prolonged delay in services. She remains hopeful others on the surgery wait list will soon get the help they need.

“We’re failing our people,” she says. “I say I’m frustrated. It’s with the system.”

“It’s been broken for a long time, and I think the pandemic has shed light on that.”