100 ER professionals call for province to reverse public health cuts

One hundred emergency room professionals have signed an open letter calling on Premier Ford to reverse cuts being made to public health. Mark McAllister with which services could be on the chopping block.

By News Staff

A hundred emergency room professionals have signed their name to a letter calling for the Ford government to reverse cuts to public health.

Dr. Raghu Venugopal, an ER doctor at Toronto General, was joined by Board of Health Chair Joe Cressy ahead of the Board of Health committee meeting and released the open letter to the province.

The letter directly addresses the effect this funding cut would have on the opioid crisis and says, last month alone, paramedics responded to 188 suspected overdoses in which seven patients died.

“Yet, in the midst of this crisis, funding has been cut for essential services such as Harm Reduction, Needle Exchange and Supervised Injection Services,” read the letter.

Emergency room personnel also urged the provincial government to reinstate funding for public health immediately and recommend engaging with public health officials to develop solutions to strengthen Ontario’s health system.

The letter also address cuts to diabetes prevention programs, saying, “preventing diabetes is more cost-effective than treating diabetic complications and has a tremendously positive impact on quality of life.”

“This is a unified opinion by those at the bedside, and I think representing their patients and their patient’s families, that these cuts are shortsighted. These cuts are going to effect the public health and the province needs to reverse them immediately,” said Dr. Venugopal.

Venugopal says the problem with these cuts is the trickle down effect they have inside emergency rooms. He believes part of the problem is that the people making theses cuts don’t see the correlation.

“The policy makers have absolutely no idea what is happening at the patient’s bedside,” he says.

Ford announced back on Aug. 19 that the province would be moving ahead with some of its controversial municipal funding cuts for public health next year.

The province said they have asked the City of Toronto to provide $4.3 million more towards the public health budget in 2020 in order to keep funding levels the same as 2019.

The Progressive Conservative government had tried to force retroactive funding cuts this year but had to cancel them after municipal leaders complained their annual budgets had already passed.

Prior to the changes announced by the Ford government last spring, municipalities had varying public health cost-sharing arrangements with the province – with Ontario paying 100 per cent or 75 per cent in some cases.

The new plan will see all municipalities – including Toronto – pay 30 per cent of public health care costs. Under the initial plan, Toronto would have been on the hook for 50 per cent of the cost.

The change to a 70-30 cost-sharing funding model will happen on Jan 1, 2020, but, in order to “help protect municipal budgets,” the province will be putting a 10 per cent cap on increases to public health costs in the first year.

Cressy called the cuts “less severe than before but just as shortsighted.”

A spokesman for the Minister of Health, in response to the letter from ER professionals, said, “It’s clear that the letter was written under Councillor Cressy’s false pretense that Toronto Public Health’s funding will be reduced as a result of our changes.”

“This new approach is aligned with what we heard from municipal leaders, including Mayor Tory, who said that he’s willing to work with the province to find efficiencies and respect taxpayer dollars but needed more time to do so,” read a statement from the Minister of Health. “We’re confident that the City of Toronto can find $4.3 million of efficiencies in an overall operating budget of $13 billion to allocate to public health.”

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