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YEAR OF CHANGE?

- Board of Health Voices Concerns Over Potential Changes to the Way Health Units are Funded and Held Accountable -

(LINDSAY) – Familiar faces will again helm the local Board of Health in 2016, a year of potential changes for public programs and services in the area.

At their recent meeting held January 21 in Lindsay, members of the Board of Health for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit re-elected Mark Lovshin as their Chairperson for 2016. Lovshin, the Mayor of Hamilton Township, is a long-time Chairperson of the Board of Health, which oversees Health Unit programs and services provided in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County and Haliburton County.

Board of Health members also selected City of Kawartha Lakes Councillor Doug Elmslie as their new Vice-Chair for 2016, a position he has held in the past (most recently in 2014). Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier had served as Vice-Chair in 2015.

The nine-person local Board of Health faces a year of potential change in 2016, based on recent provincial announcements that could affect the way Ontario health units are funded and held accountable.

Last fall, the Board learned about a new provincial funding model for Ontario health units. The new model freezes provincial funding to the base budgets of most health units in Ontario – including the HKPR District Health Unit – for the foreseeable future. Local Board of Health members have warned a long-term funding freeze will amount to a cut in provincial funding as costs incurred by health units continue to rise. To find savings, the Health Unit is already looking at all its operations for cost-efficiencies – including reviewing the way its programs and services are delivered in the Brighton area. Preliminary recommendations about what to do in Brighton are expected to be presented to the local Board of Health in March.

Another major change that could affect Ontario health units are proposals announced in December 2015 as part of the Ontario government’s discussion paper, Patients First: A Proposal to Strengthen Patient-Centred Health Care in Ontario. The Patients First discussion paper proposes a closer integration between health units and Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). Under the proposal, health units would work more closely with LHINs to plan population health services. LHINs would also assume control over provincial funding for health units and their accountability agreements with the province.

“The Patients First discussion paper is a very important announcement by the Province because it has significant potential implications for public health units and other sectors,” local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lynn Noseworthy told Board members. “We need to ensure proper checks and balances are in place to protect public health programs and services.”

Board of Health members echoed the sentiment, warning that local decision-making regarding Health Unit programs and services could be lost under the Patients First proposal. In the coming months, Board members will gather more information about the discussion paper and consult with their public health colleagues elsewhere in Ontario about what it could mean.

Medical Officer of Health Updates:
Dr. Lynn Noseworthy provided information to Board of Health members on the following:
First Notices Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act
The Health Unit will be mailing out notices in early February to parents/guardians of local students who are overdue or missing certain immunizations required under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA). The ISPA requires students attending school in Ontario to be fully vaccinated against: diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis (whooping cough), varicella (chickenpox), and meningococcal disease. Under the ISPA, students can be suspended from school if their immunization records are not up-to-date with the Health Unit. Parents/guardians who receive these notices are being asked to contact the Health Unit immediately to provide the requested immunization information.
First Locally-Acquired Flu Case
The first locally-acquired influenza case in the Health Unit region was reported during the first week of January. “Flu season is starting a bit later this winter,” Dr. Noseworthy told Board members, a situation she noted is being mirrored right across the country. Fewer respiratory outbreaks have also been reported in the Health Unit region so far this winter, suggesting it could be a relatively mild influenza season in 2015/16.
Office Renovations
Minor renovations to the Health Unit office in Port Hope are set to start at the end of January, and continue over the next three months. One-time provincial funding is being provided to carry out the renovation work, which will be done during non-office hours to minimize the impact on staff and operations in Port Hope.
Charitable Donations
Health Unit staff gave back to their communities in a big way in 2015. Over the past year, Health Unit staff contributed nearly $5,000 in payroll deductions to the United Way organizations in Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. This past holiday season, Health Unit staff in Port Hope and Haliburton also donated more than $1,100 to various community agencies. Staff also donated items to food and toy drives organized across the region.

 

Reports
Goose Dropping Concerns Affecting City of Kawartha Lakes Beach
Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit, presented a report to the Board on the problem of goose droppings affecting the water quality at some beaches in the area. Of specific concern was the popular Bond Street Beach in Fenelon Fall. Based on beach monitoring last summer, Ovcharovich noted the direct link between beaches being posted as unsafe for swimming and the presence of a large waterfowl population such as geese and seagulls in the immediate vicinity. “Waterfowl droppings have a direct impact on beach water quality,” he said. “Geese are not the only problem. Seagulls are just as bad or worse.”
In his report, Ovcharovich recommended ways that local municipalities could control the geese population around beaches, thereby improving water quality. One way is to enforce existing bylaws, or create new ones, that prohibit the feeding of birds such as geese, ducks and seagulls along or near beach areas. Another option is to follow Environment Canada’s guidelines for discouraging, scaring and controlling birds from nesting and settling near beaches. “There is no silver bullet to get rid of the problem,” Ovcharovich said. “It’s a combination of a number of different initiatives.”
According to Ovcharovich, the Bond Street Beach in Fenelon Falls provides a good example of what can be done to fix the problem. Last summer, a group of concerned Fenelon residents actively maintained the beach area, including cleaning up goose droppings. A coyote decoy was also set up during part of last summer to scare away geese along the beach. The resulting drop in the goose population led to an improvement in the water quality on the Bond Street Beach, resulting in fewer times the beach had to be posted as unsafe for swimming.

Infection Prevention and Control Practices at Tattoo Parlours
The local Board of Health is calling for stronger inspection rules and regulations for tattoo parlours and other similar ‘invasive’ services. Board members unanimously endorsed a motion calling on the Ontario government to create specific legislation that would set out minimum requirements for infection control practices and operator responsibilities at invasive personal service settings such as tattoo parlours.
The motion comes at a time when the Health Unit is seeing an increasing in the number of tattoo parlours opening for business in its area, including Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon and Minden.
“Currently, we don’t have specific tools or legislation to force professional standards to be followed in settings such as tattoo parlours,” Christopher Beveridge, Director of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit, told Board of Health members. “All that is required is for Public Health Inspectors to inspect tattoo parlours once a year, and encourage operators to follow best infection prevention and control practices.”
While most tattoo parlour owners/operators are only too willing to comply with the Health Unit, having clear regulatory responsibilities in place would provide better guidance for tattoo parlour operators and provide better protection for the public, Board of Health members agreed.
Beveridge noted that if safe and proper hygiene practices are not followed during “invasive” procedures such as tattooing, people can be at risk of serious illnesses such as Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, HIV and skin infections. Under current laws, Ontario health units do have the power to shut down tattoo parlours due to health hazards, but Beveridge told the Board that having specific legislation geared to tattoo parlours would remove any guess work about what is expected of them.
Such legislation exists for restaurants and other food premises in Ontario, he said, where rules and regulations lay out clearly what is expected of operators – including the specific temperatures at which different foods need to be stored. “Having a similar legislative framework for tattoo parlours and other invasive services supports the work of Public Health Inspectors and removes any doubt of what health and safety protocols are expected of operators,” Beveridge added.
In addition to writing a letter to the Ontario government urging it to pass such legislation, the Board of Health’s motion is also being sent to the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) for endorsement at its annual meeting later this year.
Mental Health Promotion in Children and Youth
Lorna McCleary, Manager of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention with the Health Unit, made a presentation to Board of Health members regarding a Locally Driven Collaborative Project (LDCP). The project is a joint effort by HKPR and other Ontario health units looking at how to better promote and support the mental health of children and youth in Ontario. “We are finding different health units are doing many different things, but there is no cohesive or coordinated approach to their efforts to support and promote mental health across Ontario,” McCleary told Board members.
According to McCleary, a recent survey found one in eight Ontario students in Grades 7-12 have contemplated suicide in the past year (Source: Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, 2013). Based on results of the LDCP, seven recommendations are being made regarding how Ontario health units can complement and strengthen existing mental health programs and services in their communities.

New Business
Board of Health Meeting Schedule for 2016Approved, a schedule of dates for future Board of Health Meetings in 2016.

Policies Approved, a revision to a number of Health Unit policies.
Correspondence – Received for information, a number of correspondence items from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Association of Local Public Health Agencies.
Service Recognition 2015 – At their December 2015 meeting, Board of Health members honoured staff with the Health Unit who celebrated service milestones in 2015. The following staff members were recognized: Leslie Orpana (35 years), Connie McGinn (25 years), Lorna McCleary (15 years), Melanie Babcock (10 years), Stacey Hyatt (10 years), Melissa Ivey (10 years), Anna Rusak (10 years), Sue Shikaze (10 years), Krista Skutovich (10 years), Karen Pettinella (10 years), Karen Taylor (10 years), Heather Weatherill (10 years), Laura Young (10 years), Md Azad (5 years), Amy McCully (5 years), and Stephanie Logan (5 years).

Next Meeting
The next Board of Health meeting will be held at 10 am on Thursday, February 18, at the Health Unit’s office (200 Rose Glen Road) in Port Hope.

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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