Mayor Frank Scarpitti on proposed changes to public health

Mayor Frank Scarpitti calls for province-wide public hearings into Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s proposal to integrate public health

“We are all open to new ideas and to innovation, but what exactly is the problem the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care is trying to solve?” questions Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “We need to be stronger and we should be asking for province-wide public hearings into this proposal.”

In January 2017, the Minister of Health, Dr. Eric Hoskins established an expert panel to advise on structural, organizational and governance changes for Ontario’s public health sector. The panel’s report Public Health within an Integrated Health System was released in July 2017.

Public Health is a municipal function. According to a report by the Commissioner of Community and Health Services, Katherine Chislett and the Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karim Kurji, separating public health from York Region could have serious implications. The report states, “The role of public health is to serve people in our communities, so that they do not become patients in our hospitals. Public health planning and activities focus primarily on the “upstream” prevention of illness in populations.”

The report, which was presented to York Region Council on October 19, 2017 supports Mayor Scarpitti’s call for clarity on exactly what problem the recommendations are intended to address, what the intended outcomes are and how setting up another bureaucracy would benefit citizens and the public health sector. The report also states, “York Region citizens may be negatively impacted as the quality and availability of Public Health Branch’s services may be reduced, and programs may be less effective.”

Mayor Scarpitti has concerns about burdensome costs that could come with a regional public health entity, “As Mayor, what worries me, by setting up these organizations and transfer of care, is guess where that funding is going to come from? There could be downloading and side loading. What is the impact on municipalities?”

During the York Region Council meeting, Mayor Scarpitti felt it was important to meet with the Minister of Health and Long Term Care immediately. The delegation should include the Chair of York Region and area Mayors. That recommendation was included in a motion voted on by York Region council members.

“We need to try and get in front of him, before it gets in front of us,” says Mayor Scarpitti, “people get concerned when you start tinkering with what’s close to them like education and health care, we need to make sure what’s going to happen is substantially better than what we have today.”