Region urges Ford government to halt public health changes

York Region is urging Premier Doug Ford to halt proposed changes to public health units, saying a larger unit will be “less responsive” to the needs of the community while costing taxpayers more.

“Transitioning our health unit into a new entity and outside of the Board of Health’s jurisdiction will result in decreased service delivery and be less responsive to the needs of our growing, diverse population,” Chairman Wayne Emmerson warns.

In its April budget, the provincial government announced plans to cut spending to public health units by $200 million annually, slashing the number of units from 35 to 10 by April 1, 2020. “Modernizing” the way units are organized will result in more efficient service delivery, better alignment with the health care system, and more effective staff recruitment and retention to improve public health promotion and prevention, it said.

If that legislation is passed, York Region Public Health would be combined with the southern part of the Simcoe Muskoka Health unit, adding a geographic area close to four times the size of York Region and creating the third largest Ontario public health entity in terms of population.

Also in proposed legislation, municipalities must identify a 10 per cent reduction in their overall public health budgets by April 2020. Municipalities will be required to cover funding for 40 per cent of all public health services delivered through the new health entity by April 2021. Proposed changes to the geographic boundaries and governance model would create an additional tax levy on York Region residents in the range of $12.7 million beginning in 2020, according to the Region.

Historically, the Province has shared the cost of public health service delivery at a rate of 75 per cent provincial and 25 per cent municipal for most programs. York says it has consistently approved additional funding beyond the minimum cost-sharing requirements on the advice of the Board of Health, allowing it to better meet the needs of residents with programs and address health service gaps.

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