May 16, 2019 12:12 pm
Updated: May 16, 2019 4:00 pm

Proposal merges health units in Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland and Durham

The province may move ahead with a plan to consolidate 35 health units into 10. The proposal would see health units in Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland and Durham, amalgamated into one regional health agency. Mark Giunta reports.

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A proposed regional public health entity would see the consolidation of public health units in central Ontario, including in Peterborough.

Peterborough Public Health (PPH) says its board of health members were informed last week of the proposed boundaries for the regional health unit, which would serve residents in Peterborough, Northumberland County, the City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton County, Prince Edward County and Hastings County.

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READ MORE: Peterborough Public Health ‘gravely concerned’ about provincial funding cuts

Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, medical officer of health, says PPH currently serves 140,000 residents in Peterborough and Peterborough County as well as Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations. The regional health unit proposal would serve about 1.1 million people by merging PPH with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit; Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit and the Durham Region Health Department.

“The size and geography makes servicing and representation an issue,” she said.

“We don’t have a lot in common with Durham. It’s more urban. It has very little in-common with the smaller, rural communities.”

The proposal is part of the Ontario government’s plans to reduce the number of health units across the province from 35 to 10.

On Wednesday, Peterborough county council and board of health member Andy Mitchell tabled a motion calling on the province to maintain the 70-30 funding ratio shared by the province and municipalities.

“The provincial government wants to create a large regional public health unit serving 1.2 million people, including Peterborough County residents, that is funded at a 60-40 cost-shared ratio,” said Mitchell, who is also mayor of Selwyn Township.

READ MORE: Kingston and Ottawa city officials concerned about proposed expansion of local health unit

“Shifting public health funding from a 70-30 provincial-municipal split to 60-40 may increase the tax burden on local ratepayers and jeopardize the sustainability of public health services and programs.”

The motion also outlines requests to work with area MPPs to ensure adequate representation and governance and to establish boundaries for the regional health agency that “make sense” for residents.

“This new jurisdiction should take into account the unique rural-urban mix of this area as well as the importance of serving First Nations populations,” the county stated.

The county’s motion — similar to one tabled by the City of Peterborough on May 6 — also asks the province to delay its plans until a more comprehensive evaluation and consultation can be conducted.

“Cutting back on fundamental services and programs that actually save the health system 14 times more than is spent is very worrying,” stated Peterborough city Coun. Henry Clarke, who also serves on the PPH board of health. “We hope to share this evidence when consulting with the province and ensure the new regional public health entity maximizes local representation and accountability as this is the cornerstone to public health’s success.”

READ MORE: Northumberland County health-care stakeholders propose Ontario Health Team model

Mitchell agreed.

“Whatever happens, the primary motivation needs to be to provide public health to our residents,” he said. “Whatever else we talk about, it needs to be focused on the people who use public health services.”

In a statement to Global Peterborough, Hayley Chazan, spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott, says the government cannot confirm specific details yet on its “modernization plan.”

However, Chazan noted the province is providing regular updates on consolidation and will have specific health unit boundaries following consultation with municipalities through its soon-to-be launched technical working groups.

“Through these technical working groups, we will also work with our municipal partners to design governance and delivery models that protect and preserve the voice of all municipalities,” she said. “In doing so, we will ensure that public health investments better meet the needs of local communities.”

On Friday, the medical officers of health for the four health units that could merge will hold a teleconference to discuss how they want to proceed.

WATCH (April 17, 2019): Peterborough’s medical officer of health reacts to potential funding cut of almost 30 per cent

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