Implications of health unit changes unclear
It is yet unclear what the implications of the provincial government’s consolidation of health units in Ontario might mean for the Kawartha Haliburton Pine Ridge District Health Unit.
As part of the Ford government’s 2019 budget, it was revealed that the province intends to consolidate 35 public health units in Ontario into 10 regional agencies, a move the government says is expected to save approximately $200 million by 2022.
During an April 24 county council meeting, councillors received correspondence from the Association of Ontario Public Health Agencies.
“Unlike previous recent budgets, the 2019 Ontario budget contains a section devoted specifically to modernizing Ontario’s public health units, so the traditional chapter-by-chapter summary of other items of interest to [our] members will be delayed as our immediate focus will need to be on the significant changes that are being proposed for Ontario’s public health system,” the correspondence from association executive director Loretta Ryan reads. “It appears that the government intends to create efficiencies through streamlining back-office functions, adjusting provincial-municipal cost-sharing, and reducing the total number of health units and boards of health from 35 to 10 in a new regional model. As details about how they will do this are scarce, verbatim excerpts from the two areas that are directly relevant are reproduced here.”
The correspondence goes on to quote from the provincial budget document: “Ontario currently has 35 public health units across the province delivering programs and services, including monitoring and population health assessments, emergency management and the prevention of injuries. Funding for public health is shared between the province and the municipalities.
However, the current structure of Ontario’s public health units does not allow for consistent service delivery, could be better coordinated with the broader system and better aligned with current government priorities. This is why Ontario’s Government for the People is modernizing the way public health units are organized, allowing for a focus on Ontario’s residents, broader municipal engagement, more effective service delivery, better alignment with the heath care system and more effective staff recruitment and retention to improve public health promotion and prevention.”
Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts, who sits on the local health unit board, told her county council colleagues she’d let them know when she had information to share.
“We just don’t know,” Roberts said. “We don’t know what that means, and how it’s going to affect the county.”