Published – December 6, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
Municipal leaders are taking a stand against a proposed merger of public health services that would align programs and services with local health integrated networks.
Passing a resolution on Nov. 27 at a Special Meeting leaders expressed their support for opposition and concerns expressed by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Association of Local Public Health Agencies and the Northwestern Health Unit.
Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has been seeking feedback on the Expert Panel Report “Public Health within an Integrated Health System” released on June 9. The report recommends changing the boundaries of 36 local boards of health to “14 regional public health entities that are consistent with LHIN boundaries and respect existing municipal boundaries.”
In a letter directed to Mayor and Council dated Oct. 31 Chair of the Northwestern Health Unit Board of Health Paul Ryan says
“For Northwestern Ontario, this would result in a regional Board of Health that would include the current catchment areas of the NWHU and Thunder Bay District Health Unit and the centralization of some functions to a regional public health entity. The Board of Health of NWHU has assessed that there are substantial risks associated with such a change.”
Ryan says the merger would cause a reduction in local representation and locally provided services and programming while resulting in an increased cost of the future system as well as substantial costs for planning and implementation.
“My concern is not geographically,” said Mayor Phil Vinet while discussing the Council’s position at the Regular Council Meeting on Nov. 20. “Sometimes a lot of these expert panels they may work well in Toronto but in the North I find that practical panels work a lot better. I think this is a case where it is just not that practical.”
Vinet added his concern lies with the fact that public health dollars may be “swallowed” by private health needs.