Ontario offers money to public health units that voluntarily merge

<div>Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones says the province will be offering funding to public health units that want to merge and will reverse cuts to a funding formula. Jones makes an announcement on healthcare with Premier Doug Ford in the province in Toronto, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.</div>. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario will be offering funding to public-health units that want to merge as the province works on a “longer-term” approach to public health that clarifies roles and responsibilities, Health Minister Sylvia Jones said Tuesday.

The Progressive Conservative government in 2019 proposed consolidating the province’s public-health units, but put those plans on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

In a speech Tuesday to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference, Jones suggested that the government is once again looking at the structure of the public-health system.

“We are also going to work with the sector to clarify public-health roles and responsibilities to reduce overlap and ensure public health care is aligned with provincial priorities as outlined by the chief medical officer of health,” Jones said.

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“And we will be providing one-time funding and support to public-health units that voluntarily merge, to increase their ability to provide care to more people.”

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A spokesperson later said the province would work with public-health units to determine the level of one-time funding.

Jones also said the province will increase base funding for public-health units by one per cent a year over the next three years and will reverse cuts to a public health funding formula.

The Progressive Conservative government in 2019 moved from funding 75 per cent of public-health costs, with municipalities paying for 25 per cent, to a 70-30 cost-sharing formula.

Following an outcry at the time, the province offered mitigation funding to help local governments transition to the new formula that would see them pay a larger share of the costs.

That funding was meant to be temporary but has continued through to this year and public-health units had been calling on the government to just permanently revert to the original funding level because the reliance on mitigation funding has made it hard for them to plan and budget.

Jones announced Tuesday that Ontario will return to being responsible for 75 per cent of the share of public-health costs.

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