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York public health to absorb part of Simcoe Muskoka unit

The pace and breadth of proposed changes will cause significant disruptions in every facet of the public health system, local public health agencies president says
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File photo/Village Media

York Region's public health unit will absorb at least part of the Simcoe-Muskoka District public health unit set to be disbanded in April 2020.

The Simcoe County portion of the current operations, located north of Newmarket, will merge with the York public health, a spokesperson confirmed today to Village Media's BarrieToday.

A spokesperson for Newmarket-Aurora MPP and Health and Long-Term Care Minister Christine Elliott emailed the following statement this afternoon:

“While the government will bring forward proposals, the specific boundaries of the new regional health units will be finalized in consultation with municipalities through technical working groups, which we expect to launch shortly,” spokesperson Hayley Chazan said. “In the meantime, we are in direct contact with all public health units to provide information about our modernization plan and to answer questions.

“Through these technical working groups, we will also work with our municipal partners to design governance and delivery models that protect and preserve the voice of all municipalities. In doing so, we will ensure that public health investments better meet the needs of local communities,” Chazan added.

The current structure of Ontario’s public health units does not allow for consistent service delivery, could be better coordinated with the broader system and better aligned with current government priorities, the health ministry states.

“Modernizing and streamlining the role of public health units across the province will better coordinate access to health promotion and disease prevention programs at the local level, ensuring that Ontario’s families stay safe and healthy. At the same time, our modernizing the way public health units are organized will allow for more efficient service delivery, better alignment with the health care system, and more effective staff recruitment and retention to improve public health promotion and prevention.

“While this modernization unfolds, the government will continue to work with public health units and municipalities across Ontario to ensure that public health programs and services continue to be effectively delivered to Ontarians. Ultimately, the government’s proposed plan will enable a better matching of public health needs with local realities,” Chazan added.

Meanwhile, in a May 3, 2019 letter to Elliott, the president of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, Dr. Robert Kyle, wrote that it supports modernizing the public health system in a way that improves population health.

“We find that the magnitude of the changes being proposed and achieving this within less than one year exceptionally ambitious given the intricacies of public health services and their deliberate and appropriate variation among communities.,” Dr. Kyle said. “The pace and breadth of these changes will cause significant disruptions in every facet of the public health system. It is essential that attendant risks are mitigated, and Ontario’s frontline public health professionals continue to have the local and provincial support that they require to carry out their essential duties to keep Ontarians healthy during this time of transition.”

NewmarketToday has requested comment from York Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji.

Check back here for more on this developing story.

Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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