Emergency Board Meeting Planned for April 16 at 5:15 p.m.
Written by Communications, April 16, 2019
Board of Health Gravely Concerned About Proposed 27% Provincial Funding Cut and Loss of Municipal Role in Consolidated Public Health Units
Kathryn Wilson, Chair of the Board of Health for Peterborough Public Health expressed her serious concern that provincial plans to cut public health funding by 27% and consolidate 35 health units into 10 will disconnect local municipalities and First Nations from their role in ensuring effective public health programs.
“The success of public health is driven by its connection to the community,” explained Kathryn Wilson, Board Chair of Peterborough Public Health and Councillor for Hiawatha First Nation. “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.”
Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health echoed these sentiments, adding the severe funding cuts will put public health at risk and only drive up costs to the healthcare system. “The 27% 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. It will entail cutting into the meat and bone of public health services and may cause huge, disruptive changes that put lives at risk,” she stated. “Investing in upstream health protection and promotion should be seen as an essential component of reducing hallway medicine.”
Dr. Salvaterra went on to say “public health is responsible for some of the biggest returns on investment in terms of healthcare costs when you consider the impact alone of things like vaccinations, lowering smoking rates, community water fluoridation and the promotion of food security and daily physical activity to prevent chronic diseases. This is what we can achieve by collaborating with families and decision makers across sectors in ways that respect the diverse character of Ontario communities.” As an example she noted Ontario’s $500-million campaign to promote smoking cessation saved the province an estimated $5 billion in tobacco-related death, disease and health-care costs.
Other Board of Health members also expressed alarm at announcements made in the Ontario budget. “This move by the provincial government to unilaterally reduce our local health system causes me great concern. Public health’s strength lies in its local knowledge and local connections enabling it to interact successfully with our citizens to promote healthy living, address issues of concern to our friends and neighbours while improving the quality of our lives,” said Henry Clarke, Board of Health member and 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.”
The importance of consulting with local public health officials regarding boundary changes was explicitly noted in the March 15, 2017 response by the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) to the province’s Expert Panel on Public Health. Specifically, the alPHa submission stated that “changes to health unit boundaries should be considered only in the context of optimizing human and financial resources, and ensuring equitable availability of public health expertise and technical requirements for full local delivery of public health services in all parts of the province.”
The Board of Health is planning an emergency meeting on Tuesday, April 16 at 5:15 p.m. in the J.K. Edwards Board Room on 185 King St., Peterborough to discuss the potential impact of the provincial changes to the public health system and what this means for the residents of the City and County of Peterborough, and Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations.
For further information, please contact:
705-743-1000, ext. 391