Making sense out of the Provincial government’s new direction for Public Health Units in Ontario

Making sense out of the Provincial government’s new direction for Public Health Units in Ontario

Augusta Matters by Mayor Doug Malanka

The Leeds and Grenville Lanark District Health Unit (LGLDHU) serves the municipalities of Leeds Grenville and Lanark Counties including Augusta Township.  Earlier in the New Year, I was elected as the Chair of the Board of the LGLDHU Public Health Unit.  By now, you are probably aware of the April 11th, 2019 Provincial Government Budget that announced a new direction for the public health units in Ontario.  The budget announced that the Provincial‑Municipal cost‑sharing of public health funding would be adjusted by 2019‑2020, (despite the fact budgets have already been set) and existing public health units and boards would be replaced by 10 regional Public Health Entities and 10 new regional Boards of Health with one common governance model by 2020 – 2021 putting local content and context in health programs and services delivered by our LGLDHU at risk.  The budget concluded that the changes would result in annual savings of $200 million dollars by 2021‑2022.  According to the Budget, the adjustment to the Provincial‑Municipal funding formula would improve public health programs and back‑office efficiency and sustainability while providing consistent, high quality services and be responsive to local circumstances and needs.  The rationale in the budget announcement for replacing the current 35 public health units with 10 regional public health entities and establishing 10 new Boards of Health is to establish one common governance model and permit agencies to focus their efforts on providing better, more efficient front‑line care by removing back‑office inefficiencies through digitizing and streamlining processes.

The Board of Health was notified on Thursday, April 18 that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will unilaterally change the Provincial‑Municipal funding ratio for Mandatory Public Health Programs from the current 75%/25% to 70%/30% in 2019 and then the funding will be 70%/30% or 60%/40% for subsequent years depending on the population size of the Regional Public Health Entity. The related public health programs like Smoke-Free Ontario and Healthy Smiles Ontario which are currently 100% provincially funded will be funded at 70% provincial/30% municipal in 2019. The MOH, Dr. Stewart estimated that this provincial decision will increase the overall municipal contribution for public health programs and services by about $1 Million to meet the Ontario Public Health Standards in 2019.  The government has not provided a description of a Regional Public Health Entity beyond saying that all current Boards of Health will be disbanded and a new Regional Entities and Boards will be established.

At its Board of Health meeting on April 18th, 2019, the LGLDHU announced what it had learned from the Province earlier in the afternoon and approved a letter that was immediately sent to Warden UCLG, Mayor Sayeau, Leeds and Grenville and Lanark Mayors, CAOs and Clerks and a notice was sent to the Press. Municipal recipients were encouraged to write and express their concerns.  Stay tuned as the situation develops.