So many questions about public health changes

Officials say they are waiting for more information about a planned merger of area health units.As part of a provincewide amalgamation, the Ontario government says the Brant County health unit will be merged with those serving Haldimand-Norfolk, Hamilton and Niagara. Across the province, the plan will see 35 units reduced to 10.“We have so many questions,” said Jo Ann Tober, CEO of the Brant County health unit, which has about 115 employees.The agency has been told it will be part of a proposed merger with Haldimand-Norfolk, Niagara and Hamilton, which is also the area basically covered by the LHIN, or Local Health Integrated Network.“We’ve been informed there will be consultation, so these boundaries are proposed at this point and it’s all subject to legislative change,” Tober said Tuesday.Without details on what the new structure will look like, Tober said the health units have no idea what the impact on local services will be.“Our concern is that the proposed merger covers a much large area and we want to know if the needs of our community will be met. Brantford and Brant County are very different than Hamilton and Niagara.”That’s a concern shared by the Haldimand-Norfolk heath unit, said Matt Terry, director of communications.“Everyone here feels strongly that, regardless of what happens, we need to maintain the voice of these two counties. We’re a rural community and we’ve got some unique issues we deal with.“We just don’t have a ton of details yet on what the impact is going to be.”The Haldimand-Norfolk health unit has about 100 employees.Tober noted that Ontario’s health units deal with infectious disease outbreaks and numerous programs that aim to prevent diseases and reduce hospital admissions.“It’s important work,” she said.“I understand there’s a need to cut costs but, in our opinion, we’re the people who prevent people from getting sick so a health unit spending is a wonderful investment. Every dollar saves many more dollars in the system.”Tober said the Ministry of Health will be pressed to maintain the current community programming.The public health changes were announced this spring in Ontario’s first Progressive Conservative budget since 2003.The province also announced a funding change for health units. Now, municipalities fund a minimum of 25 per cent of public health services and the province funds the other 75 per cent. The new funding arrangement sees the municipalities covering 30 per cent as of April 1, 2019, 30 per cent as of April 1, 2020, and between 30 and 40 per cent as of April 1, 2021.A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement that the specific boundaries of the “modernization plan” will be finalized in consultation with municipalities through “technical working groups” that will launch soon.“So, we’re just waiting for more information,” said [email protected]@EXPSGamble read more

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