Massive overhaul and reductions to public health announced in provincial budget

The provincial government’s budget of Thursday, April 11, announced a plan to massively change how public health services are structured in Ontario and drastically reduce funding.

“Many questions remain and the full scope, financial details, and specific timelines for these changes have yet to be communicated, but we anticipate the impact will be immense,” said René Lapierre, Chair, Board of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “Locally, we are working to understand the implications and communicate to staff and the community what we know so far.”

“We are mobilizing within the northeast and are working with our four neighbouring public health units to get ready for change,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Sudbury & Districts Medical Officer of Health. “We have had a Northeastern Collaborative Shared Services Project underway and it is now adjusting its focus to how together we can shape the restructuring of the public health system across the region. My goal is that we are an early adopter and figure out how best to serve the public health needs of people in the North East – all within a context of one new organization and severely constrained resources,” added Sutcliffe.

Effective immediately, Public Health Sudbury & Districts has implemented several strategies in response to the provincial budget. These include a hiring freeze and the cancellation of all non-essential spending. “Public health programs and services are essential to the health of local communities,” said Dr. Sutcliffe. “We will continue to offer the full scope per the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Ontario Public Health Standards, without interruption and for as long as possible,” she added.

The key role of public health is to bridge support and create community collaboration within the health sector and well beyond. The work of public health is foundational to community health by seeking to amplify the health potential of decisions made in all sectors, such as education, transportation, municipal, social services, etc. Direct services are delivered to people in addition to collaborative work to ensure that community decisions are informed by a health lens.

Quick facts:

  • In 2019/20 the provincial/municipal cost-shared funding will be readjusted.
  • The 35 existing public health units and 35 boards of health will be dissolved, and 10 new much larger regional entities with boards will be established by 2020/21. To date, the geographic service boundaries of these entities have not been communicated.
  • Under the provincial budget, funding cuts in the amount of $200M are to be achieved across the local public health system by fiscal year 2021/22, which represents a potential reduction in provincial grants for cost-shared programs of up to 27%.
  • These cuts are in addition to significant prior funding reductions experienced as the result of a revised provincial funding formula introduced in 2015 and provincial fiscal constraints.
  • The Northeastern Collaborative Shared Services Project includes Algoma Public Health, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, Porcupine Health Unit, Public Health Sudbury & Districts, and the Timiskaming Health Unit.

This item was last modified on April 16, 2019