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Board Notes Meeting of Feb. 20, 2019

Mar 04, 2019
Board of Health presses Queen’s Park for continued funding; Free vision screening for school children; Board approves 2019 budget

Board of Health presses Queen’s Park for continued funding

The Simcoe Muskoka Board of Health is asking the Ontario Minister of Health to maintain funding to continue the full range of public health services and programs. A letter to the minister, approved by the board at the Feb. 20 meeting, will also be sent to local municipalities. Given that the provincial government has begun a review of health services, the board felt it was an opportune time to make the case that health care dollars can be saved with the presence of a strong public health system. The letter follows up on a background paper produced by the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, The Contribution of Public Health to Reducing Hallway Medicine, which highlights the role public health can play to help the government meet its election commitment of eliminating “hallway medicine”.

Free vision screening for school children

In March the health unit will launch its vision screening program for senior kindergarten students across Simcoe and Muskoka. The initial pilot of the program is expected to reach 40 per cent of the schools in this school year. The Board of Health learned this is a new mandate for public health, introduced in the revised Ontario Public Health Standards in January, 2018. Once fully implemented the program will provide free vision screening for more than 5,500 senior kindergarten students in more than 150 schools across Simcoe Muskoka. Debby Oakley, the manager of the vision screening program, said the screening uses simple tests designed as games to identify three common vision problems. The health unit will also promote comprehensive eye exams by a professional optometrist. Testing is recommended for children as early as six months of age and is covered by OHIP. The Ontario Association of Optometrists estimates that 25 per cent of children have some type of vision problem, but health unit analysis shows that less than half of children in Simcoe and Muskoka have had an eye exam before the age of six.

Board approves 2019 budget

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s cost-shared budget for 2019 has been held to an increase of just over $160,000, about 0.5 per cent more than last year. The province has frozen grants to the health unit since 2013 and with no anticipated increase this year from the province, the health unit must increase its municipal levy by 2 per cent to cover the additional $160,000. A draw from reserves of $300,000 this year will prevent the loss of full-time positions. With programs funded 100 per cent by the province and other supplements, health unit budgeted revenues total just over $37 million.

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