With no provincial increase to its base budget since 2014, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is asking the province and its funding municipalities for a 2% increase this year to help offset rising operational costs.
At its meeting on February 16, the Board of Health approved a total budget of $16,256,835. This includes the 2% requested from the province, a total municipal contribution of $4,205,388, and one-time funding requests from the province totaling $177,492.
“Like the majority of health units in Ontario, our health unit has not received an increase from the province to our base funding since 2014,” Mary Catherine Masciangelo, Director of Corporate Services for the HKPR District Health Unit, told the Board. “While we have been working to decrease operational costs, we are still faced with increases to our annual operating expenses that are unavoidable.”
Under the current funding structure, 72% of the Health Unit’s base cost-shared budget comes from the province and 28% from the three funding municipalities of the area it serves – Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. The health unit is also able to submit business cases to request one-time funding from the province for projects or services not covered by the operational budget.
Masciangelo told the Board that while the budget also seeks a 2% increase from the province, direction from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to health units has been not to anticipate any additional growth funding.
“If we do not receive any increase from the province, we will not be seeking any additional money from the obligated municipalities, and will continue to implement changes to our budget to address the shortfall,” she said.
In her presentation of the budget to the Board of Heath, Masciangelo highlighted costs and decreases, including:
• 1.5% negotiated increase in salaries
• 1.5% increase in insurance costs
• $24,000 in dental consultation support after the departure of the Director of Dental Services
• $10,000 investment in infection prevention and control
• $25,000 one-time investment in a replacement inspection database for the Environmental Health program
The Health Unit has also been working to decrease expenditures, she said, reducing occupancy costs of its leased buildings, and closing a branch office in Brighton. As well, some staff positions have been left vacant after people resigned or retired, including two program director positions vacated in 2016. With those vacancies and the need to further decrease administrative costs, the Health Unit is examining ways to redesign its organizational structure to capture efficiencies and ensure the organization is poised to meet future program and service requirements from the province.
To assist with that process, this year’s budget also includes a voluntary separation program (VSP) that offers an incentive for eligible non-union and management staff who may wish to resign or retire. Under the VSP, an allocation capped at $100,000 has been set aside to provide a small incentive for management and non-union staff to leave the organization, and staff accepted into the program must leave the Health Unit by December 31, 2017.
“This is just one more way in which we are working to implement improvements to our budget to address our funding shortfall from the ministry.” Masciangelo said.