On April 11, the Ontario government announced plans to establish 10 regional public health entities and 10 new regional boards of health with one common governance model by 2020-2021. In follow-up, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has proposed that the Perth, Huron and Grey Bruce health units be merged to create a new regional health entity. The new entity would come into effect April 1, 2020, and be governed by an autonomous board of health.
As a regional health entity with a population under one million, the cost-sharing arrangement with municipalities for the new entity would shift to 70 % provincial/30 % municipal, effective April 1, 2019, and stay at that level. The MOHLTC has told health units that there is opportunity for one-time funding for the current budget year to transition to the new funding formula.
“These proposed changes are not yet final. There will be further consultation with boards of health and municipalities over the next few months before legislative changes are finalized,” says Dr. Miriam Klassen, Perth’s Medical Officer of Health. Dr. Klassen says that the Huron and Perth health units have been directed by the province and their boards of health to continue with the Huron and Perth amalgamation process, in keeping with current provincial legislation.
The four counties in the proposed new entity extend from the Bruce Peninsula at its northern tip to as far south as Stratford and St. Marys. The four counties are predominantly rural and manage uniquely rural challenges and opportunities as well as support the more urban areas of Stratford, Goderich, and Owen Sound as well as three First Nations communities in their public health mandate.
“While there will be opportunities to share resources and improve capacity, the greater geographic coverage area of this new entity will require us to ensure that we continue to focus on local needs,” says Dr. Maarten Bokhout, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Huron County.
“The timelines for the proposed restructuring are quite tight and during this timeline municipalities will be coping with changes to the funding formula as well,” says Dr. Klassen. “We look forward to working with municipalities and the MOHLTC in order to continue providing excellent public health programs and services in our communities.”