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Is a 'crisis' looming for public health? York Region's medical officer is worried

Premier Doug Ford announces cuts coming for public health
August 28, 2019
Lisa Queen

How deep will provincial cuts be to York Region public health programs be?

A worried medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, is bracing for the answer.

Premier Doug Ford announced upcoming funding changes for public health programs at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa on Aug. 19.

Rather than paying for 75 per cent of public health services delivered by municipalities -- and 100 per cent for some -- the provincial government will scale that back to 70 per cent next year, Kurji said.

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That’s not a huge blow, especially since regional officials have already found $2 million in savings since Ford signalled in the provincial spring budget he would cut funding for public health, he said.

Those savings are the result of not filling vacant staff positions and moving to online neonatal and food handling classes rather than in-person lessons, Kurji said.

“Suffice it to say, for 2020, this is a better announcement than what it potentially could have been,” he said.

But the big worry comes after next year, Kurji said.

Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott have failed to address fears that provincial funding could be cut even further to 60 per cent, he said.

That could see the region losing as much as $7 million in provincial funding for its public health programs, Kurji said.

“If those are introduced, then that is a further whammy for us to deal with. I don’t think it’s doable, and I think there would be definite risks entailed to the community,” he said.

“The issue of the level of budgetary cuts can reach a threshold that, despite their best efforts, the system would break down, and that is when you would get a major crisis of some sort. When you get a crisis like that, as I have pointed out in the past, the economics of it alone are quite major, let alone what we are most concerned with, which is the mortality and morbidity to individuals, but the economics can also hit Ontario in a big way.”