Hamilton's Children's Aid Society has cancelled a health clinic serving more than 600 children because of funding cuts from the province.
The Children's Aid Society of Hamilton operated a medical and dental clinic for the children in its care, who often have difficulty finding treatment otherwise, executive director Dominic Verticchio says.
But with the province cutting $4.7 million from its annual $50-million budget over the next four years, there's no money to run it anymore.
"The 620 children in our care have very high medical needs, very complex needs, and that clinic has really assisted in terms of being able to provide comprehensive treatment," he said.
When the clinic closes at the end of June, the children will go to walk-in clinics, which means they see a different doctor every time. And family doctors "aren't willing at times to take very challenging cases," Verticchio said.
The issue came up at Wednesday's city council meeting, when Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek expressed outrage. The cuts mean that 70 staff members — or about 20 per cent — have lost their jobs.
"These vulnerable children will be falling through the cracks," said Clark, who wants to write to the province.
"It's our vision to raise the kids in a very comfortable community where they're safe. This does not do that. This is the opposite."
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health, confirmed that about 620 children with complex medical and dental needs will have to find treatment elsewhere.
The society operated the clinic five days per week from its office at 26 Arrowsmith Rd. It included a developmental pediatrician and dental professionals for the children, who often come into CAS care having not received dental treatment, Verticchio said.
The clinic also offers orthodontics — which can cost $6,000 to $8,000 — for about 100 children per year through its part-time orthodonist, he said. All of these programs have been cancelled.
"With the help of council, I hope that will change," he said.
Richardson will present councillors with a report at a future meeting on how the CAS cuts impact city services.
The Hamilton Catholic Children's Aid Society is facing a two per cent reduction to its $26-million budget. The society is still determining where it will cut its budget, said David Shea, director of communications.
The overall funding envelope for children's aid societies has remained at its 2012/13 level, said Breanne Betts, spokesperson for the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, in a recent email to CBC Hamilton.
The new funding model is a "more objective approach to allocating funds" and allocates them more predictably and transparently, she said.
The province has increased funding to the Hamilton CAS by more than $8 million since 2003, an increase of nearly 22 per cent, she said. Meanwhile, its service volumes have decreased.
"We understand that change can be difficult, and one of the key goals of the new funding model is to make sure the sector as a whole is stable throughout the transition," she wrote.
The government is also investing nearly $70 million in one-time funding to clear deficits and relieve historical debt.