The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit is pushing against amalgamation out of concern it could reduce its ability to effectively deliver services.
As part of a mass reduction of Ontario’s health units from 35 to 10, the province has proposed merging the HKPR health unit with ones in Peterborough and Durham.
Units across Ontario have raised concerns about how this could hamper their ability to do their work.
Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts sits on the HKPR board and spoke to county council on the issue May 22.
She said the amalgamation will have funding implications for the unit.
“It is pretty stressful times at the health unit right now because there’s more that they don’t know than what they do,” Roberts said. “I wish there had been more consulting. I wish the timeline hadn’t seemed to be so rushed.”
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott has cited the 2017 auditor general report in defending the move.
The report said there is a lack of co-ordination between public health units and there was “significant duplication” in some of their efforts.
“The Auditor General also reported since 2014, about one-third of public health units have undertaken research on the same issues,” Elliott said in a May 23 statement. “It’s clear that there are significant opportunities to more efficiently deliver public health while protecting and improving vital programs.”
However, the HKPR board has urged the minister to stop the overhaul.
Board chair Cammie Jaquays wrote to Elliott and Premier Doug Ford April 24 about the matter.
Jacquays told The Highlander she is uncertain about how well the new model will work.
“There’s a lot that we really do in preventative health in the community,” she said. “Will the new model be able to service the communities in a way they’ve been serviced up to now?”
She said the HKPR district is more rural than Peterborough or Durham.
The merged unit’s population will also exceed one million. That puts the unit in line for the province’s plans to reduce its share of the funding split with municipalities for larger units from 70-30 to 60-40 come 2021-22.
“That will put a strain,” Jacquays said. “The changes could have a huge effect on our community. I think people just don’t realize the major variety of the public health office.”
The provincial government is expecting the changes to save it $200 million by 2021-22, according to an Association of Municipalities Ontario Report.
The report also said the province is telling health units to look for efficiencies rather than frontline cuts. But Jacquays said the units already “run a very lean shift.”
Maintaining a voice for rural Ontario as part of a bigger jurisdiction is also a concern, she said.
“We’ve been fighting for rural living for a long time. It is different. The needs of rural communities are different than the needs of Durham.”