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KPMG skirting safety: Board of Health is not an option for cuts

Local 79 President Ann Dembinski responds to the KMPG Core Service Review presenting options for cutting Board of Health services, saying that without rigorous public health standards and enforcement, the City would be at risk.

Mayor Ford, Chair
And Members, Executive Committee

Re: Meeting # 8, (Special), July 28-29, 2011  Item # EX8.1 Core Service Review – Board of Health

Remember SARS, Legionnaires disease, H1N1 pandemic flu, Tuberculosis outbreaks, Vaccination campaigns?  Toronto Public Health is a vital Core Service. Without rigorous public health standards and enforcement every single person in this City would be at risk. The water we drink – the air we breathe – must be kept safe.

Day in and day out, in every corner of this City, Public Health workers are on the front-line of health protection and promotion, disease and injury prevention. They are essential. The work they do is critical.

 By its own admission, the KPMG Core Service Review of the Board of Health has not found any area of public health that can spare even one dollar, one staff member, in the Mayor’s search for services to cut. There were either ‘no opportunities identified’ or an ongoing review process was called for ‘to focus on generating savings and improving effectiveness, examining provincial standards critically’. Instead it was noted that the ‘demand exceeds program and services capacity’.

 Most of Public Health services are mandated, and paid for, by the provincial government. In Public Health there are very few ‘discretionary’, municipally funded services, but the Review has singled out programs for some of the most vulnerable members of our society for elimination or reductions. The ‘options and opportunities’ for cutting services include the:

 • Student Nutrition Program

Toronto Public Health administers the municipal contribution to this program that provides breakfast and nutritious snacks to school children in high needs areas. This vital nutritional support has reached 132,246 low income and disadvantaged children and youth in all parts of Toronto.

  • AIDS Prevention and Community Investment Program and Drug Prevention Community Investment Program

Reduction in HIV/AIDS, and drug prevention would reduce compliance with legislation and standards related to sexual health and substance abuse. In February 2011, the Mayor was the lone dissenting voice to accepting provincial money for an effort to encourage residents to be screened for HIV and syphilis.

 • Municipally Funded Dental Programs

Toronto Public Health provides municipally funded dental programming to low income seniors and children. These services are a last resort for low income residents without any access to even the most basic dental care for often urgent dental needs. The programs have treated 13,000 seniors and caregivers in long-term care homes and treated 7536 children and youth. The waiting list for dental services is almost 4,000 cases long.

 • Investing in Families

The ‘options’ in the KPMG Report would eliminate or reduce the services provided by Toronto Employment and Social Services’ partnership with Parks, Forestry & Recreation and Toronto Public Health to help 56,000 families receiving social assistance. This initiative provides referrals for training, employment, and counselling to other community partners.

There has already been a public outcry about Mayor Ford’s refusal to accept two public health nurses, fully and directly funded by the province, who would work with new immigrants on disease prevention and health promotion in one of the City’s poorest neighbourhoods. To-date, Toronto is the only public health unit, out of the 36 in the province, to reject the offer of ‘free’ public health nurses.

Investments in Public Health are just that – investments. Every dollar spent for public health and prevention will result in cost savings elsewhere – guaranteed! Public Health plays a key role in disease prevention, and the reduction of chronic health problems through proper preventative care, which helps to control hospital, home care and long-term care costs. Healthier communities and healthier citizens are a direct result of quality Public Health services.

Yours truly,

 

 Ann Dembinski

President

 

 

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