As the provincial government continues to slice and dice its way across many of the service Ontarians take for granted, Chatham-Kent councillors are concerned about changes that will greatly impact the local health unit.
Not only is the province planning to merge that Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit with others in the region, but it’s also downloading more of the cost onto the municipality.
Speaking at last week’s council meeting, Dr. April Rietdyk, CK’s general manager of community and human services said she’s very concerned about the impact the changes will have locally, and across Ontario.
Last year, the province covered 79 per cent of the health unit’s $9.5-million budget, with the municipality chipping in the remaining 21 per cent. This year, Chatham-Kent is expected to take on 30 per cent of the cost, while the province drops down to 70 per cent. And, while the the government plans to provide $700,000 in ‘mitigation funding’ to the municipality this year, but that still leaves a $200,000 shortfall.
In its budget released last month, the province announced plans to merge 35 public health authorities into 10 larger regional entities over the next two years, all under the auspices of ‘modernization,’ and in 2021, the funding model will change to 60:40.
Considering that we are now dealing with an aging population, and even more so in Chatham-Kent than in other parts of the province, this does seem like the wrong time to be tinkering with a system that works for the most part.
And, the government also plans to cut funding to those on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, so again, not the best time to be making massive changes to local health units.
That we haven’t had a major health incident in our community speaks to the fact the system is working, and that has a lot to do with the fact that health units focus greatly on the prevention side of things, with vaccination clinics, restaurant inspections, smoking cessation programs, dental screening for children, well water testing and a host of other things that make for a healthy community.
And while there are, no doubt, some efficiencies to be had through amalgamating, it’s difficult to know exactly how that will work out when the government seems to have little in the way of an actual plan.
The government plans to merge 35 health units into 10, and potentially reduce Ontario’s 59 local ambulance health services into – you guessed it, 10.
One of the greatest advantages of having local health units is that they are able to react to localized concerns and emergencies swiftly.
The local health unit already covers a wide area geographically and when it’s rolled into a larger area that will include Sarnia-Lambton, Windsor-Essex, London-Middlesex and Southwestern (Eglin and Oxford) Public Health, which comprises, then it’s difficult to see any advantages for local residents.
At the same time, the province is also planning to dismantle the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) in Ontario that were originally put in place to streamline the delivery of health care in Ontario.
Instead, the provincial government says it plans to replace the LHINs with smaller, local and collaborative teams. These teams would oversee hospitals and long-term care homes, as well as mental health and primary care services.
So apparently, 59 local health units are too many, but 14 LHINs are not enough.
Colour me skeptical, but it’s always a lot easier to dismantle and lay waste to things than it is to actually build them.
Based on the ‘flying by the seat of our pants’ feel of all this change I’m quite sure that by the time all is said and done, we’ll be spending more and getting less, but the good news is that if things go according to the Doug Ford plan, most of us will be too poor, too sick or too old to complain about it.