Huron Perth Public Health officials react to proposed provincial changes

Local public health leaders want to play a role as the province plans to establish 10 regional public health entities and 10 regional boards of health.

Huron County Board of Health Chair Dave Jewitt said the details are still being determined, but local health units want to be included in the discussion.

He said the needs of local communities must be considered as the province moves toward one common governance model by 2020-2021. Along with the plan is a provincial budget impact on public health of $220 million over the next two years. There are currently 35 public health units in Ontario.

Perth Board of Health Chair Kathy Vassilakos said public health units are the front lines of disease prevention and health promotion.

“Each board of health tailors the provincial requirements to meet local needs. This ensures that everyone in the community is well served,” she explained

She said local programs target chronic and communicable disease prevention, along with food and water safety. She added health boards support child development, substance use prevention and healthy environments.

Local programs include the Perth Opioid Strategy Group and the Huron Substance Misuse Working Group, immunizations, food inspections, water safety, and new parent support.

At this time, it is unknown how the provincial budget announcement will impact the planned merger of the Perth District Health Unit and Huron County Health Unit, which becomes effective January 1, 2020

“We will continue to liaise with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care about our local amalgamation plans, and if and how they will be impacted,” said Dr. Miriam Klassen, medical officer of health for Perth County.