Medical Officer of Health says cutting public health boards could be costly

Dr. David Colby, CK Medical Officer of Health. Oct 18, 2017. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health is glad the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has similar concerns about proposed cuts to Ontario’s health care system because the cuts should be taken seriously.

As part of a 52-page report, AMO wrote that municipal governments, which fund health units, are active players in Ontario’s health system and should have more say in provincial health policy, planning, and decision-making and not less because they know the community’s needs better. The provincial government is considering reducing the number of public health units from 35 to 10 by 2021 and merging the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and six provincial health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario, into a “Super Agency”.

Dr. David Colby said local public health is very cost effective and shouldn’t be centralized or diluted.

“We save the government money. With every dollar you spend on public health, we save money by preventing other costs down the line,” said Colby.

Colby said reducing public health units to save $200 million a year will cost more health care money down the road. He added local property taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for possible gaps in provincial health funding.

“The province would have a harder time justifying municipal funding if municipalities have less say in the way that public health is delivered at a local level,” he added.

Colby hopes the province shows some flexibility like it did with other health care changes, such as the new Autism Program after parents fought for funding and service improvements.

“We’re hoping that they will consult with and take into account the experience and knowledge of people in the field,” Colby said.