The recent provincial budget has left some at Simcoe-Muskoka’s health unit wondering what the future will look like.
Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Heath for the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, says the recently tabled provincial budget contains significant funding cuts and scale-backs as Queen’s Park prepares to reduce the number of health units across the province. “We know from the budget, public health will have a reduction of $200 million of funding from the province. It will take place by 2021-2022, and we also know that the number of health units will be reduced, as early as next year, to ten from the present 35.”
Dr. Gardner says the reductions may have been aimed at finding efficiencies, but says it goes further than that. “I think it’s fair to say that with the funding reduction, although the province intends that we would attain efficiency of scale, with reduction in the number of health units and back office efficiencies, that the amount of funding reduction has to go beyond just those efficiencies, and has to have an impact on front line staffing and therefore service delivery.”
As he and others at the Health Unit look at their own internal budgets and wonder where to trim, Gardner says it would be nice to have some guidance. “At this point we haven’t been given specific instructions from the province on what programs to focus on. Although the budget did allude to alignment with provincial priorities, they haven’t yet stated what those would be. We therefore are waiting for more detail from the province.” says Gardner. “We certainly would like to know the math they have in mind for the 10 new public health entities, because that will be important for us in the transition.”
For the time being, the health unit is in a holding pattern. “Our task between now and then is going to include preparing for that change, those mergers, and we’re awaiting that information.”