The Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health unit may soon be absorbed into a larger public health entity as part of the provincial government’s plan to reduce the number of public health units from 35 to 10 and cut public health spending by $200 million by 2020-2021.
The proposed merger was announced in the spring budget on Thursday, Apr. 11, 2019, and would combine the Renfrew health unit, Ottawa health unit, Leeds health unit, Granville Lanark health unit, and KFL&A into a single regional public health entity.
NDP MPPs Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre) and Ian Arthur (Kingston and the Islands) said Doug Ford’s plan to collapse five eastern Ontario Public Health units into a single massive unit, while also cutting its resources, will undermine the Public Health unit’s ability to keep families safe and healthy.
“By massively expanding the boundaries of Ottawa’s Public Health unit from Kingston all the way to the Quebec border, Ford will force 1.7 million people across 29,000 square kilometres to be served by a single, under-resourced unit,” said Arthur. “Programs will have to be cut, corners will have to be cut, and people will end up paying the price.”
Arthur said that KFL&A has led the charge against the spread of lyme disease, developing physician education programs and creating a lyme disease network for doctors that was adopted on a national scale.
“Our health unit is successful, and it knows our community,” Arthur said. “Asking a single public health unit to cover vastly different communities with distinct needs makes it so much more difficult to respond, quickly and effectively on the ground, to new public health concerns — from lyme disease, to a SARS outbreak or a local water concern.”
Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A said that the unit had “questions on whether (the proposed amalgamation) was the right fit” and would be “providing feedback to government through board or municipal funders.”
“We’ve been told they’re trying to find ‘efficiencies’ by having one board instead of five, one CEO instead of five. They call it ‘back end efficiencies,’” stated Dr. Moore. “If this is done right, the savings would come from efficiencies in those corporate services and improvements in governance and oversight.”
Dr. Moore said that KFL&A hoped to provide the same quality of “basic programs that are front line with our community,” and assured that “no matter where we end up, our goal at the local level is to maintain the same excellent services.”