A group of protesters stands outside MPP Laurie Scott's office demonstrating against the cancellation of the basic income pilot project. /Photo courtesy of Mike Perry

Proposed health unit merger concerns Dysart mayor  

By Jenn Watt

News last week of the provincial government’s proposal to merge the local health unit with those in Peterborough Hastings County Prince Edward County and Durham Region is concerning Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts said.

Roberts who represents Haliburton County council on the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit board said if the province moves forward with the boundary change it could mean increased cost for municipalities. It would also combine HKPR with regions much larger including Durham. The merged health unit would include Peterborough Public Health HKPR Durham Regional Health Department and Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit.

In April the Progressive Conservative government announced that the province’s 35 health units would be reduced to 10.

Provincial government officials and MPPs have been quoted in the media calling the mergers a starting point for discussions with nothing “set in stone.”

Roberts said she sees two major impacts to the proposed merger: “One the amalgamation of 35 health units [in the province] to 10. This alone will have a significant impact to us here in Haliburton. We are already a huge geographic area but now we will be assigned to Peterborough and Durham. This will take the population coverage to slightly over the one-million mark” she said in an email to the Echo .

The second impact is financial. “Currently we are supposed to be at a 75 [per cent] provincial 25 [per cent] municipal split [in funding]. Because the province had frozen funding for the few years we were actually at a 71/29 ratio meaning CKL Northumberland and Haliburton counties were all paying more. This year after we set our county and health unit budgets they announced it would be 70/30 so we will be in a shortfall this year. Haliburton County’s shortfall is [approximately] $19000” Roberts said.

“Once the new boundaries are set we will be over the [one million] population so the provincial/ municipal split will be 60/40. What will this mean to service? Costs to the county? Program cuts to the most vulnerable in our communities?”

Representatives in other affected regions have similarly taken issue with the proposed change.

The Peterborough Examiner reported that Peterborough County council had passed a motion asking MPPs to consult with municipalities and First Nations in the region before going ahead with the mergers. The paper reported that Peterborough city council passed a similar motion.

Health units are tasked with promoting health and preventing disease; their work includes educational campaigns health inspections vaccinations water testing and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices.

“From my few years [of] experience on the board the people that work in public health are extremely dedicated and strive to make our area safer” Roberts said.