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WECHU to cut staffing and programming by about 10 per cent, citing budget restraints

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in Windsor, Ont., on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (Chris Campbell / CTV Windsor) The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in Windsor, Ont., on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (Chris Campbell / CTV Windsor)

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) says it will be reducing its staff by about 10 per cent in 2024 due to budgetary restraints.

WECHU CEO Dr. Kenneth Blanchette issued a statement Friday afternoon saying this amounts to about 24 jobs, and will impact the service levels of a number of programs.

“The approved 2024 budget for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit includes reductions in staffing and programming across multiple areas. Our health unit, like others in the province, is facing a fixed three-year provincial increase of one per cent per year, which does not keep up with current inflation,” Blanchette said.

“In addition, work associated with COVID-19 response, including outbreaks, case and contact management, and vaccination is ongoing, however, provincial funding will no longer be available. These factors, in combination with an internal program review, created the basis for difficult but essential decisions related to reductions for the coming year.”

In 2019, the government announced it was cutting its share of public health funding, moving from a 75-25 cost-sharing formula with municipalities to 70 per cent from the province and 30 per cent from municipalities.

The province backed down on retroactive cuts following an outcry and offered funding to help transition to the new formula. That funding was considered temporary, but continued through 2023.

A return to the 75/25 funding formula was announced in August, while increasing base funding for public health units by one per cent a year for three years starting in 2024.

The WECHU has started the process of notifying staff of an overall reduction in the number of unionized and non-union positions by about 10 per cent relative to the health unit’s 2023 complement. This amounts to about 24 jobs, however, through attrition and voluntary retirements Blanchette said WECHU aims to reduce this number to the extent possible.

Details related to the approved operational budget will be shared to the WECHU website.

According to WECHU, the programs listed below will continue to operate, but various levels of impact will be experienced. Clients will be notified accordingly.

  • Nutrition and Healthy Eating Services
  • Infectious Disease Prevention
  • Healthy Growth and Development
  • Tobacco and Vaping Prevention
  • Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction
  • Injury Prevention
  • School Health Promotion
  • Immunization
  • Oral Health Promotion
  • Environmental Health Promotion

“We are committed to ensuring reductions in services and programs are communicated quickly to our clients and partners,” Blanchette said. “Our team has been through numerous challenges and changes over the past several years. I am proud of the work of the WECHU and the resilience our staff continue to demonstrate.”  

-- With files from CTV News Toronto Top Stories

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