Ottawa's new medical officer tables stay-the-course 2019 budget

The city's new medical officer of health says her first budget will stay the course as the Ottawa Board of Health waits to see what the provincial government provides in its spring budget.

Some budget items unknown, hinge on funding from Ontario government

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's new medical officer of health, tabled her first budget Monday night. (CBC)

The city's new medical officer of health says her first budget will stay the course as the Ottawa Board of Health waits to see what the provincial government provides in its spring budget.

"This is a very steady-as-she-goes budget," Dr. Vera Etches said in an interview following Monday night's Board of Health meeting, where the draft 2019 operating budget was tabled.

"We're looking at a cost of living increase that really maintains the current service level that we have."

About $46 million of the agency's $62.1-million budget will come from provincial coffers, and it anticipates a two per cent increase from the province — the same as the previous year.

Nearly $14 million of the Ottawa Board of Health's $62.1-million budget will come from city coffers. (CBC)

"And in the case that they don't come through with the two per cent, then it means we have to look for those efficiencies and adjust our budget," Etches said.

"The approach we take is we don't spend it until we have confirmation, so we have to have a conservative approach and be careful with our spending until we do know what the province is providing."

Funding for injection site still up in the air

Some programs, such as the supervised injection site on Clarence Street, had to go through a new application process.

Applications for the province's 21 existing supervised injection sites were supposed to be dealt with by the end of January, but site managers across Ontario haven't yet received any word.

Andrew Hendriks, Ottawa Public Health's director of health protection, said the agency has made a pitch to the province telling them the program saves lives.

"It's making a difference in the community," Hendriks said. "In 2018 we had about 100 overdoses that we responded to on site," — 100 people that didn't have to use emergency services.

OPH to apply for additional funding

The budget said the agency will apply to the province to fund a number of other programs, including: 

  • Vision and dental screening.
  • Healthy Smiles Ontario's pediatric clinic.
  • Promoting Indigenous health equity.

The budget also states the board could make a number of one-time funding requests for:

  • Cannabis education programs.
  • Supervised injection services, including mental health and treatment supports.
  • Vaccine distribution.
  • Housing programs.


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