Queen’s Park Funding Reversal Provides Short-Term Clarity For Health Unit

Medical Officer of Health Still Needs A Better Sense Of What Happens Next Year

Premier Ford’s 180 on municipal funding cuts means the local health unit has some short-term stability. One of its head health professionals is uncertain of the health unit’s future beyond the winter however.

On Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced his government would reverse retroactive funding cuts to municipalities for 2019, adding he listened to mayors when they said budgetary savings could be found, but more time was needed to do so.

“…we need to get a better sense of what’s coming next year.”

Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU Medical Officer of Health

Dr. Charles Gardner, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health, says the Ford Government deciding not to enforce budget cuts for 2019 means service delivery will be status quo. “It would appear that it takes the pressure off us for the present year, to maintain our budget: maintain staffing, maintain program delivery. We do need to look at it in some detail, and we need to get a better sense of what’s coming next year.”

Related: Local Health Unit Left in Limbo As Province Proposes Cutbacks

While the announcement does mean more certainty for 2019, Dr. Gardner says it still leaves next year up in the air. “Exactly when could we expect the shift in funding back to the municipality, an increase in municipal funding, would it be January, would it be April?” Gardner adds the lack of detail in this week’s announcement adds to the difficulty in planning long-term. “We’ve got to do our best to be able to create a direction overall, for our board to consider, and changing announcements adds to the challenge.”

Related: Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to Disband

Gardner does agree with Ford in that more time is needed. “The Premier did indicate that this was at least in part because making a change in the funding demands of a municipality within their [fiscal] year is difficult. I think that would indeed be true and that it is easier for us and the municipalities that fund us to make changes well in advance of the beginning of their year.”