Peterborough Public Health representatives are upset by the Ontario government’s plans to consolidate 35 public health units into 10 regional boards of health with one common governance model by the end of 2021.
The plan was announced in Ontario’s 2019 budget last Thursday as part of its plan to modernize Ontario’s public health units, resulting in an annual savings of $200 million for the province.
But, Peterborough Public Health is calling the move ‘devastating’.
“This government is proposing to slash $200 million from a budget of $750 million, that’s almost 30 per cent of our overall budget for local public health,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health. “This is not trimming the fat. This is not about efficiencies. This is about cutting the meat and bone away from public health.
“This will be devastating to public health and its services.”
“The success of public health is driven by its connection to the community,” added Kathryn Wilson, board chair of Peterborough Public Health. “In a province as diverse as Ontario, this proposed model will severely undermine the ability of municipalities and First Nations to contribute to public health governance.”
Peterborough Public Health says the cuts result in a loss of 27 per cent of funding.
“The budget reduction that has been announced goes far and beyond any cost-savings from back office efficiencies, or even the elimination of 25 local Medical Officer of Health positions,” added Salvaterra. “Investing in upstream health protection and promotion should be seen as an essential component to reducing hallway medicine.”
“This move by the provincial government to unilaterally reduce our local health system causes me great concern,” said Henry Clarke, board member and Peterborough city councillor. “Moving to ten mega health units without seeking public input or the guidance of the 35 local boards, that have delivered public health to our communities for over 100 years, is short-sighted.”
Officials with Peterborough Public Health say they’re not sure yet what the cuts will mean to staff or services at the local level.
In an emailed statement to Global Peterborough on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care said:
“The government is modernizing the way public health units are organized, allowing for a focus on Ontario’s residents, broader municipal engagement, more efficient service delivery, better alignment with the health care system, and more effective staff recruitment and retention to improve public health promotion and prevention.
As part of this modernization, the ministry will establish 10 regional public health entities and 10 new regional boards of health with one common governance model by 2020–21.”
The province’s statement continued: “Resources will be organized in a way to ensure we can deliver on our commitment to build a strong and sustainable health care system that is designed around the needs of patients. The ministry will work closely with each board of health and our municipal partners to ensure that essential public health functions continue to be maintained at the local level.
As the province begins this work, Ontarians can be confident that they can continue to contact their local public health units for programs and services.”
An emergency board meeting has been called for April 16 at 5:15 p.m.