No municipal increase for health unit budget through 2021: Roumeliotis

The United Counties of SD&G administration building at 26 Pitt Street in Cornwall, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SD&G – The region’s chief health official says the province’s one-time funding boost announced last week will mean SD&G municipalities won’t have to pay more for Eastern Ontario Health Unit services through the end of 2021.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis addressed county council Monday morning on this year’s $12.5 million health unit budget, of which roughly $1.8 million is covered by SD&G and the City of Cornwall.

Given the pandemic and the state of emergency, Roumeliotis says they begged the Ministry of Health (MOH) “don’t touch anything, please,” to stave off the “huge increase” after a policy change meant the funding formula would change from a 75-25 split to a 70-30 split.

The province announced a $47 million one-time money injection for health units for 2020 and 2021 during last week’s Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference.

“We only got that letter of funding Friday afternoon to formalize it and I still have to look at it properly with (CFO) Frank (Spagnolo),” Roumeliotis told council.

“Our understanding right now is that the budget remains at the levels…whatever was paid in 2019 was paid in 2020 and we’re led to understand that one time injection will also cover any increases moving to 2021,” he said.

The doctor says the province has essentially “flat lined” the budget not only for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit but for the contribution from municipalities to 2019 levels.

SD&G had been looking at a nearly 10 per cent increase this year (from $1,025,972 to $1,127,184). For Cornwall it was nearly 11 per cent (from $728,413 to $804,534).

Roumeliotis says they will have to go back to the drawing board and bring back a revised budget.

“So I guess then…in 2022 we’ll face the big jump at the municipal level,” Coun. Tony Fraser (North Dundas) asked.

“We’re going to fight that. They (MOH) are promising to revisit that. That’s another battle we have to fight,” Roumeliotis replied.

Roumeliotis added they the health unit will likely be over budget this year due to extraordinary costs due to COVID-19 but those will be covered 100 per cent by the province “like it was in H1N1” so “that’s not going to be a liability for the municipalities.”