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Waterloo Region to ask Ford government to reconsider planned changes to Public Health

Waterloo Region Chair Karen Redman.
Waterloo Region Chair Karen Redman. Facebook

A staff report prepared for the Region of Waterloo estimates the area will be shorted $5.4 million in funding by the Ontario government’s proposed changes to local public health units.

The report, which is to be presented at Tuesday’s council meeting, recommends that regional council ask the provincial government to reconsider its proposed changes.

Regional Chair Karen Redman says that Waterloo residents are much better served by the current system than they would be by the Ford government’s proposed changes.

READ MORE: Ontario budget proposes consolidating 35 public health units into 10 regional entities

“I think the local accountability is absolutely key for me,” she told Global News on Monday. “Our public health department provides so many services and creates a synergy between municipal mandates that sort of overlap into public health.”

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She pointed to the consumption treatment sites as an example of how Waterloo Public Health’s mandate is intertwined with many other social services within the region.

“When we look at the opioid crisis and when we look at crime prevention and when we look at planning issues,  (Public Health’s) voice is at the table and they’re bringing out the determinants of health,” Redman explained. “They’re asking us to consider, as a larger group, the impact or the unintended consequences of dealing with these very complex social problems.”

The staff report says the proposed regional Board of Health will include Waterloo along with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Peel and Halton regions.

READ MORE: Kingston parent speaks out against Ontario’s new provincial autism plan

“That would make us part of that of a huge entity of 2.9 million people,” Redman said. “We don’t need the kind of local accountability and decision making that currently exists with public health being part of that region.

“So we’re really cautioning that the province relooks at this because we don’t think that it’s an improvement over what currently exists.”

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Redman also pointed to the different needs within Waterloo region which a larger board would likely be unable to consider.

READ MORE: Ford government commits to $60.7 million investment in Waterloo region transit

“We also have an interesting dynamic in Waterloo region because we have rural communities and public health can support those planning tables,” she began before adding, “sometimes how we address problems in the rural context would be very different than the urban context.”

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She believes this allows Public Health to better address the needs of those in urban areas.

“I think that those kinds of nuances can get lost when you become part of a 2.9 million person catchment area,” Redman said.