In a time of fiscal restraint, a two-per-cent increase to health unit funding across the board demonstrates a recognition of the importance of public health programs, said the Sudbury and District Health Unit's medical officer of health.
There would be years when the health unit wouldn't be “terribly excited” about a two-per-cent increase in base funding from the province, Penny Sutcliffe said, but the fiscal reality across the province right now, where many other sectors are facing cuts, means there is a focus on programs that help prevent residents from becoming ill in the first place.
Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci announced almost $16.9 million in base funding on Sept. 17, money that will go toward such programs as dental treatment and preventative care for children of low-income families through the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, as well as increased community access to publicly funded vaccinations.
Both Bartolucci and Sutcliffe referenced public health care as the “nucleus” of the health system, meaning it's critically important that work is done to keep citizens healthy “and to ensure the environment, and the decisions made around the environment, is as healthy as it can be, so we, in turn, have the greatest chance to remain healthy,” Sutcliffe said.
Continued funding enables health unit staff to forge ahead with its partnerships that ensure those who need it the most, get the programs and services they need, she said.
“Very leading-edge health care takes place at a health unit,” Bartolucci said. “The educational programs offered here are second to none, and have a very positive effect on ensuring people practise good health care, which diminishes costs down the line.”
The delivery of these programs is increasing, he said, and the outcomes of those programs is how the province was able to justify increasing funding to health units across the board.
“When you invest in programs, the likes of which happen at the Sudbury and District Health Unit, you are investing in quality health care with a preventative component attached to it,” he said. “At the end of the day, the excellent quality of health care delivered through the health unit will lead to reduced health-care costs down the road.”
The province provides 75 per cent of the health units base funding; the other 25 per cent comes from the City of Greater Sudbury.