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- Health Unit Voices Concerns Over New Public Health Funding Formula; Starts Review of its Own Services -

(PORT HOPE) – Facing a provincial funding freeze over the next few years, the local Health Unit is joining the chorus of concerns being expressed over a new public health funding formula.

At their meeting last Thursday (November 19), members of the Board of Health for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit endorsed a resolution from the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) calling on the Ontario government to reconsider its new funding model for health units. As the organization that represents Ontario health units, alPHa notes that spending on programs delivered by Ontario health units makes up only 1.4 per cent of Ontario’s total health care budget.

Under the new funding model approved by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, HKPR is among 28 Ontario health units that did not receive an increase to their operating budgets this year. It is expected that provincial funding for the local Health Unit’s base budget will be frozen for the foreseeable future. However, a long-term funding freeze will amount to a cut in provincial funding as costs incurred by health units continue to rise, Board of Health members warn.

“The new Public Health Funding Model will make it challenging for Boards of Health to continue to build and maintain capacity to work within our communities to protect and promote health, and prevent disease,” local Board of Health Chairperson, Mark Lovshin, writes in a letter to the Ontario government.

Along with endorsing alPHa’s call to reconsider the public health funding formula, the local Board of Health also approved a motion calling on Health Unit staff to “investigate alternate solutions for the provision of public health programs and services in the Brighton area.”

Currently, the Health Unit is looking at all its operations for cost-efficiencies, and the review of the provision of public health programs and services in Brighton will be part of that process, says Mary Catherine Masciangelo, the Director of Administration and Human Resources with the HKPR District Health Unit.

The review will include looking at the future of the Health Unit’s Brighton office, which is currently located in the Brighton municipal building on Alice Street. Besides its Brighton location, the local Health Unit also has offices in Port Hope, Lindsay and Haliburton.

“The objective of this review process is not to reduce services, but to look to see whether they can be offered differently in a more efficient manner,” Masciangelo says. “Our plan is to continue providing locally-available programs and services for Brighton-area residents.”

In 2012 the Health Unit closed its office in Campbellford for fiscal reasons. However, Health Unit staff continue to provide community-based programs and services through schools, daycares, long-term care homes, Ontario Early Years Centres, food premises, the hospital and other venues in Campbellford.

 

Medical Officer of Health Updates:
Dr. Lynn Noseworthy provided information to Board of Health members on the following:

Tick Surveillance Program – Lyme Disease
Earlier this fall, Public Health Inspectors with the Health Unit completed a ‘tick-dragging’ exercise in five locations throughout Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. The goal was to detect if ticks in these natural areas were the type infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The blacklegged tick is the vector responsible for transmitting Lyme disease in Ontario, Dr. Noseworthy told Board members. In tick dragging, she explained, small squares of corduroy cloth are
mounted on a pole and tied to a length of rope. This cloth device is then dragged by Public Health Inspectors in a grid-like pattern through terrain suspected of harbouring ticks. Any ticks collected are then sent for testing to determine the type of ticks and if they carry Lyme disease. “Tick dragging is a useful way to collect a variety of tick species from a large area,” Dr. Noseworthy noted.

Based on the tick dragging, the only location in the Health Unit area found to have the types of ticks known to be infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease was Presqu’ile Provincial Park in Brighton. According to Dr. Noseworthy, this finding was not unusual, as Presqu’ile is known to have a tick population that carries the bacteria that can spread Lyme disease.

Food Safety
Nearly 3,000 kilograms of meats and other perishable food items were seized from a delivery truck, and ordered destroyed due to fears that they posed a health risk to people. Recently, a food delivery truck travelling on Highway 401 near Grafton was pulled over by Ministry of Transportation (MTO) enforcement officers. The truck was on its way from Toronto to deliver meats and other foods to Kingston-area eateries. The Health Unit was called in when MTO officers became concerned that the truck carrying perishable food did not have any refrigeration equipment on it. Public Health Inspectors from the Health Unit determined the food did pose a hazard, and ordered it to be destroyed. Health units in Toronto and Kingston were notified about the seizure, and further investigations are underway. Dr. Noseworthy noted this incident is only the latest in a number of similar cases the Health Unit has been involved in the past few years, in which delivery vehicles were pulled over and the food ordered destroyed because of safety concerns.

Flu Vaccine Program
Flu vaccination clinics are underway throughout the Health Unit area. People can get flu vaccines at local pharmacies, through their doctor’s office, or at community clinics organized in November by the Health Unit. Dr. Noseworthy told Board members that the Health Unit is offering fewer community clinics this year due to lower turnout. This doesn’t mean, however, that fewer people are getting the flu vaccine; instead, she pointed to the fact that people are going to different places to get protected. “We’re seeing that as our flu vaccine clinic numbers go down, the number of people being vaccinated at local pharmacies is going up,” she said. “In the end, we hope that the overall flu vaccination rate increases this year.”

Infection Control Week Colouring Contest
There has been a very positive response to a colouring contest for daycares that the Health Unit organized to mark Infection Control Week in October. Children in local daycares were encouraged to colour a picture that depicted a young girl washing her hands. Daycare staff were also encouraged to use the colouring sheets as a teaching tool for children to highlight the importance of
handwashing. Three winning entries will be chosen in November, with the lucky pre-schoolers receiving a small prize basket from the Health Unit.

Office Renovations
Provincial funding has been received to carry out renovation work in the Health Unit’s Port Hope office. The renovations to the reception area and washrooms are being done to improve accessibility and address health and safety concerns. Renovations are expected to start in December.

Development of Region-Wide Drug Strategy
The Health Unit is working with several community partners to develop a region-wide drug strategy for Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Dr. Noseworthy told Board members that these drug strategies are an effective way to reduce drug use and its associated problems.

Reports
Evaluation Capacity
Andrew Harris, an Epidemiologist with the Health Unit, made a presentation to Board of Health members on a Locally Driven Collaborative Project (LDCP) investigating ‘Evaluation Capacity’ across Ontario public health units. The first phase of the LDCP, which was completed earlier this year, was designed to help assess the ‘capacity’ of public health units to conduct program and service evaluations. Capacity is often influenced by human resources, organizational resources, evaluation planning, evaluation literacy, organizational decision making and learning benefits, Harris told Board of Health members. Organizationally, the evaluation capacity project is intended to identify manageable steps that the Health Unit can take in order to build its evaluation capacity to more effectively measure and evaluate programs. “Not only are health units mandated to do evaluation, it’s also a very important exercise to ensure public health programs and services are effective, efficient and meet the needs of the people they are intended to help,” Harris added.

New Business
Long-Form Census ReinstatementApproved, that a letter be sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, thanking the new federal government for its recent decision to reinstate the long-form census for 2016. The previous federal government had eliminated the mandatory long-form census, and the Health Unit had expressed concerns that the data collected would be substandard and incomplete. The Health Unit uses the census data to help plan its services and programs for local residents.

One-Time Funding - Approved, a request to submit one-time funding requests totaling just over $112,000 to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The one-time funding requests would cover: the expansion of the Children in Need of Treatment program; costs incurred by the Health Unit for its role in assisting with the Pan American Games kayaking events held in Minden this past summer; costs associated with the transition to a new integrated publicly-funded dental program; and extra expenses that were sustained in promoting and enforcing expanded smoking restrictions contained in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.
As it submits these one-time funding requests, the Health Unit did receive word from the Ministry that it would be getting $103,000 to help cover the costs associated with the new Panorama immunization/vaccine-tracking computer software.

Operating StatementApproved, a motion to accept the draft operating statement for the HKPR District Health Unit. As of October 31, 2015, the Health Unit had expenditures of $15.04 million.

Insurance Renewal – The Health Unit is renewing its commercial insurance coverage for 2015/2016 at a total cost of nearly $97,700. The insurance costs for the coming year will be 8.5 per cent less than they were in 2014/15.

PoliciesApproved, a revision to a number of Health Unit policies.

CorrespondenceReceived for information, a number of correspondence items from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Association of Local Public Health Agencies.

Next Meeting
The next Board of Health meeting will be held at 10 am on Thursday, December 10, 2015, at the Health Unit’s office (200 Rose Glen Road) in Port Hope.

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For media inquiries, contact:
Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, Medical Officer of Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100,
or Bill Eekhof, Assistant Communications Officer, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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