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Health unit approves budget, wants to hire 15 full time employees

New hires would help with backlog of needed, non-COVID health programs and services
20200301-Algoma Public Health, winter, stock-DT-02
Algoma Public Health. File photo, Darren Taylor/SooToday

Algoma Public Health (APH) board of health members approved the organization’s 2022 budget at their monthly meeting, held virtually Wednesday.

The budget must now be approved by 20 municipalities in Algoma, including Sault Ste. Marie.

Ringing in at $19.6 million, there’s room in the budget for APH to hire 15 new full time employees - to not only keep up the fight against COVID-19 - but also to address big backlogs in other spheres of public health.

“There are a large number of needs that have arisen,” said Dr. Jennifer Loo, APH medical officer of health and CEO, addressing the board in her budget report.

Impacts to public health services - as APH has dedicated its time and effort primarily to COVID response - include:

  • A one-year wait list (over 100 people) for smoking cessation support
  • Suspension of virtual prenatal classes 
  • Backlog of routine food safety and safe water inspections 
  • Backlog of more than 14,200 doses for school-based immunization 
  • Backlog of 4,500 infant and childhood vaccines
  • 18-month backlog in school dental screenings
  • More than 200 clients awaiting seniors’ dental services

The 2022 APH budget, at $19.6 million, is an increase of 2.45 per cent ($470,197) over the 2021 budget and is described in the budget report as “the minimum required” to keep up COVID-19 response and restoration of public health programs and services.

The budget contains a 10 per cent increase (over $380,000) to levies for municipalities within the APH area.

The APH 2022 budget report shows local public health services in Algoma are projected to cost about 46 cents per person per day, or $13 per person per month, or $166 per person per year.

“It’s still on par with your standard Netflix subscription...this is value for money when it comes to the services and programs being delivered,” Loo said.

The board’s approval of the 2022 budget comes after APH, as reported earlier, is considering putting restrictions on gatherings due to the recent dramatic surge of COVID-19 cases in the Sault and Algoma.

That surge includes five COVID deaths in the region over the last week.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, APH reported there are currently 255 active cases of COVID-19 in the Sault and Algoma with 16 people hospitalized.

There have been 958 confirmed cases, 703 resolved cases and 14 deaths in the Sault and Algoma during the pandemic.

Loo’s monthly report to the board, presented at Wednesday’s meeting, shows (as of Nov. 17) that of all eligible Algoma residents (born in 2009 or earlier), over 90 per cent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and over 86 per cent have received two doses.

About 22,000 Algoma residents remain unimmunized with any dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

About 10,000 of them are currently eligible for immunization based on age.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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