Changes called ‘dan­ger­ous’

Health unit plans worry Nickel Belt MPP

The Sudbury Star - - LOCAL - With files from Post­media

NDP Health critic France Geli­nas of Nickel Belt calls Premier Doug Ford’s plan to cut the number of Northern pub­lic health units to two — down from nine — “dan­ger­ous to the health and safety of North­ern­ers.”

By col­laps­ing all Northern health units into just two, Ford will force each to cover thou­sands of kilo­me­tres and hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple, in com­mu­ni­ties with very dif­fer­ent pub­lic health needs, Geli­nas said in a re­lease Tues­day.

“Pub­lic health units op­er­ate in community, de­liv­er­ing vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams, in­spect­ing drink­ing water sup­plies and step­ping in when there’s an out­break to iden­tify, con­tain and stop the spread of ill­ness and dis­ease,” she said. “These cal­lous cuts spread pub­lic health units thin — with less money to pro­tect more peo­ple over a more vast ter­ri­tory.”

The pro­vin­cial govern­ment plans two cre­ated two health units for the North. Re­gion 9 would take in Sud­bury, Nipiss­ing (part of Ren­frew), Muskoka (part of Sim­coe-Muskoka District Health Unit), North Bay Parry Sound, Al­goma, Timiskam­ing, Por­cu­pine.

Re­gion 10 would cover Thunder Bay and the North­west­ern Health Unit.

The planned amal­ga­ma­tion also could si­lence a strong ru­ral voice, one health of­fi­cial warns.

“There is wis­dom in lo­cal com muni ties about their own unique needs and the bar­ri­ers to good health that they face,” said Cynthia St. John, head of South­west­ern Pub­lic Health, which over­sees com­mu­ni­ties in El­gin and Ox­ford coun­ties.

“Plan­ning in part­ner­ship with in­di­vid­u­als and lo­cal community part­ners, and de­liv­ery at a very lo­cal­ized level are what drive our suc­cess.”

At a re­cent meet­ing in St. Thomas, mem­bers of the pub­lic health agency’s board also ex­pressed con­cern over a new fund­ing model and the toll on mu­nic­i­pal bud­gets.

Now, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties fund a min­i­mum of 25 per cent of pub­lic health ser­vices and the prov­ince funds the other 75 per cent. The new fund­ing ar­range­ment sees the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties cov­er­ing 30 per cent as of April 1, 2019, 30 per cent as of April 1, 2020, and be­tween 30 and 40 per cent as of April 1, 2021.

The pub­lic health changes were an­nounced this spring in On­tario’s first Tory bud­get since 2003.

“The in­ten­tion of pub­lic health is to keep peo­ple healthy by pre­vent­ing ill­ness and in­jury,” said South­west Pub­lic Health board chair Larry Martin. “That in­ten­tion is tightly aligned with the cur­rent govern­ment’s goal of re­duc­ing hall­way medicine by keep­ing peo­ple out of hos­pi­tals en­tirely.

“If we be­come less ef­fec­tive at the lo­cal level, we can’t help re­duce the bur­den in the rest of the health sys­tem.”

Mean­while, Premier Doug Ford said Mon­day the Toronto Board of Health is a “bas­tion of left­ies” that spends ridicu­lous amounts of money.

“As a mat­ter of fact, we put them there,” the for­mer Toronto coun­cil­lor said Mon­day. “Mayor (John) Tory took the same strat­egy we did. Put all the left­ies in one corner in Toronto health.”

Toronto coun­cil­lor Joe Cressy cur­rently chairs the board of health.

Ford’s com­ment came in re­sponse to a ques­tion from NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath about pro­vin­cial cuts to mu­nic­i­pal fund­ing, in­clud­ing a re­duc­tion to Toronto Pub­lic Health.

“The premier’s cred­i­bil­ity is re­duced ev­ery time he turns to name call­ing and red bait­ing, if you want to call it that,” Hor­wath said. “I mean, what are we? In the ‘50s? Grow up and do your job.”

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