Health unit wants more money
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | March 16, 2017
Although more than two-thirds of the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s (HKPR) budget is funded by the province, it’s not enough because of rising operational costs.
To meet the shortfall, it’s asking for a two per cent increase from the municipalities it serves as well as the government. This means an $8,000 increase for Haliburton County, or 9.6 per cent of the total share, from $397,000 last year to $405,000 in 2017.
“Like other health units across the province, HKPR has not received a provincial increase to its base budget since 2014,” said Chandra Tremblay, communications services manager.
The HKPR board recently approved a budget of $16,256,835, which includes the increase. The total municipal contribution is more than $4.2 million while the one-time request from the province is $177,500.
If the HKPR is unsuccessful getting more money from the province, it won’t expect the municipalities to increase their contribution and instead “will continue to implement changes to our budget to address the shortfall,” said Mary Catherine Masciangelo, director of corporate services.
A total of 72 per cent of the cost-shared budget is funded by the province. The remaining 28 per cent comes from Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
For 2017, Northumberland County was assessed at $2,013,449 (47.9 per cent) and Kawartha Lakes at $1,786,930 (42.5 per cent).
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has told health units “not to anticipate any additional growth funding,” according to a press release.
Since 2015, employee salaries have increased 5.25 per cent, including a negotiated 1.5 increase this year. Further increases of one per cent annually are expected for the next two years.
The HKPR employs 136 full and part-time staff, including 15 at its Haliburton office. Ten employees in the organization earned more than $100,000 in 2015. The highest paid employee was the medical officer of health, who earned nearly $300,000.
Insurance costs also went up 1.5 per cent to $110,000. Most of this covers the HKPR’s equipment, but there is also liability insurance that enables staff to participate in community events.
Brent Devolin, county warden and Minden Hills reeve, is frustrated with the onus being placed on municipalities and says it’s another example of government downloading.
“Downloading has many faces,” said Devolin. “This (with them not increasing the base funding) is about to begin the step to reconstructing the pay formula.”
“I take great offense on whatever level. The province creates constructs ... that we have no input or control to pay scales and budget. And then, [we] are left with the tab,” he said.
In order to decrease expenditures, the HKPR closed a branch in Brighton. Some positions have been left vacant after people resigned or retired, including two program director positions vacated last year.
Further, the organization is “examining ways to redesign its organizational structure to capture efficiencies and ensure the organization is poised to meet future program and service requirements from the province.”
This year’s budget includes a voluntary separation program that provides an incentive for eligible non-union and management staff who wish to resign or retire. An allocation capped at $100,000 has been set aside.
The HKPR expects to hear from the province sometime in September, said Tremblay.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.