Pub­lic Health seeks best use of funds

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion - Larry Stin­son, direc­tor of op­er­a­tions, Peter­bor­ough Pub­lic Health

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.

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