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$41.7M boost given to Ontario’s public health system


Toronto, ON – June 22, 2004 – Comprehensive changes to Ontario’s public health system have been unveiled by the province’s government. The government says the three-year plan is a response to recommendations made by the interim Campbell and final Walker reports examining the impact of the SARS crisis across the healthcare system.

Operation Health Protection, as the plan is dubbed, has a five-prong approach for revitalizing public health. It establishes a new Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Agency, will increase the independence of the chief medical officer of health, immediately establishes a provincial infectious disease advisory committee, increases the number of medical and scientific personnel; and establishes new surveillance, communications, and IT capability.

Immediate funding of $41.7 million is being provided in the following areas:

– $2.6 million is allocated for the provincial infection control strategy, including the first phase of regional infection control networks and a provincial infectious disease advisory committee.

– $10.5 million for increasing infection control staff. This will include increased training capacity, new infection control positions across the health system, and stabilize 180 infectious disease positions in public health units.

– $12.9 million for infrastructure supports. This includes public health information and information technology, and a videoconference link with the central public health lab.

– $15.7 million for public health renewal and agency development. This includes full implementation of the integrated public health information system (iPHIS) across the province, enhancement of the Public Health Epidemiology Report Ontario, and reviews of the current system including laboratories, local public health units, mandatory programs, and the public health research education and development (PHRED) review.

“Operation Health Protection addresses the deficiencies in the public health system that were noted in all of the reports we have received on the SARS crisis,” says Dr Sheela Basrur, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and assistant deputy minister of the public health division. “This allows us to work with our many partners in building more of the resources and support we need to achieve optimal health for all Ontarians.”

In its recent budget, Ontario’s provincial government committed to funding $273 million in public health in 2004/05, growing to $469 million by 2007/08. In addition, the government says it is providing the $41.7 million in new funding in 2004/2005 to support this new plan.