Public Health seeks best use of funds
RE: PETERBOROUGH LETTER: PETERBOROUGH PUBLIC HEALTH CAUGHT UP IN A TAX SHELL GAME, NOV. 18, 2018
Mr. Schofield starts his stated opinion by highlighting the fact that the Peterborough Public Health Board has had considerable discussion about funding challenges. This statement is completely accurate, but the remainder of his assessment falls short of a full portrayal of the situation.
The majority of public health programs are cost-shared between the province and local municipalities (and for Peterborough Public Health, our two local First Nations). The intended balance of funding proposed by the province is 75 per cent from the Ministry of Health and LongTerm Care, and 25 per cent from local funding partners. With freezes on provincial funding increases in recent years, the majority of local public health agencies in the province (27 of the 35) have maintained program delivery levels by obtaining a greater than 25 per cent share from municipalities. The Board for Peterborough Public Health has avoided this direction, until its proposed 2019 budget, but reluctantly has had to put this cost burden on municipalities. The board has also taken steps to advocate for appropriate and sustainable funding from the province. This is in an effort to retain the needed services for our community.
The assertion that increased funding is not necessary and Peterborough Public Health simply needs to do more with less is an oversimplification. The funding challenges faced over the past five years has required finding efficiencies and implementation of cost-cutting measures. The fact is, 83 per cent of the budget for public health goes toward paying for the staff needed to deliver services. Further reductions in funding means reduction in service levels.
Peterborough Public Health is accountable for its spending to the province, through detailed Annual Service Plans and regular reporting.
Through the Board of Health and its Stewardship Committee, financial and program activity reports are reviewed quarterly. The audited financial statements are approved by the board and posted for public access.
The auditor general for Ontario has reviewed public health programs, most recently, Chronic Disease Prevention, and value for money audits are conducted on local public health agencies on a rotational basis. To imply there is not adequate accountability for our spending is inaccurate.
Lastly, Mr. Schofield suggests our fundraising efforts are somehow inappropriate. As a registered charity, Peterborough Public Health has responded to local public health needs that are not otherwise covered through the official public health mandate or other government funded programs. An example would be the Dental Treatment Assistance Fund, which helps those with emergency dental needs, who have no other coverage. Fundraising dollars will not be used for mandated programs or to offset funding shortfalls from government.
The board and staff at Peterborough Public Health are committed to finding the best way to continue the important health protection and health promotion work need for our communities.