Within months of the 2018 elections of the provincial and municipal/regional governments in Ontario, the provincial government was announcing cuts to local public health programs and services and plans to reduce the number of local public health units. I brought a motion to Council in June 2019 to call on the province to delay changes to funding and to leave the number of local public health units unchanged.
In the wake of the pandemic, the value of our local public health units is indisputable. It is local medical officers of health and their teams who provided advice to the provincial government and to the general public; it is the actions and decisions of local medical officers of health and their teams that kept so many in our community safe and healthy; and it is – in large part – due to the actions and decisions of our local medical officers of health and their teams that so many vaccinations have been administered.
To respond to the pandemic, local public health units have had to divert an average of 78% of all available resources to the COVID-19 response, which has resulted in an increase in the use of substances and mental health needs, as well as the widening of health inequities.
It is imperative that local public health units be protected and that they are funded appropriately. Whilst this is – by and large – the responsibility of the provincial government, I am committed to continuing to advocate for appropriate levels of investment in Niagara’s public health capacity.