Health unit hikes levy again

With the recent announcement the Northwestern Health Unit is raising its per capita levy by about two percent for 2002, the Town of Fort Frances is keeping a close eye on whether the services rendered for that money are justifiable, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said this morning.
“If it’s an essential increase to maintain the 85 percent of mandated programs they’re delivering, then we’ll pay,” he remarked.
“But there will be some inquiries. We’ll have to talk with our [NHU] board rep Bill Martin to see what the justification is,” added the mayor. “We’ll have to pry into what the final results will be, and see the health unit is operating in a proper, business-like manner.”
The new per capita levy ($35), multiplied by the population of Fort Frances (7,986), means the town will be paying the health unit $279,510 this year.
This is based on the population calculated from the 2000 enumeration.
“The two percent increase is overwhelmingly reasonable,” Dr. Pete Sarsfield, the health unit’s CEO and medical officer of health, said this morning.
“That doesn’t even match the cost of living increase, let alone our increase costs for staffing, even paper,” he stressed. “We haven’t had any squawks from any municipalities.
“We think this is because, with their own increased costs, they understand they couldn’t afford it if we asked for more.”
Dr. Sarsfield added he’s received phone calls for some people asking why the health unit doesn’t ask for more if it’s only delivering 85 percent of the provincially-mandated public health services, as revealed in a performance evaluation in November.
“I’ve told them I’ve tried it before, and only ended up running into a brick wall,” he said, referring to 2000 when he looking to sue the Town of Fort Frances for refusing to pay a levy hike for most of that year.
“If the public wants to see more funding given to the health unit, don’t look to the municipalities, let the province know what you want,” added Dr. Sarsfield.
The town’s first monthly levy instalment will be $23,292.50, but since the town was issued the notice late, instalments for both January and February are due Feb. 1.
Interest will be charged at a rate of 1.5 percent per month for payments received later than one month after the due date.
The levy jumped by $1.30 to $34.30 per capita in 2001, amounting to an increase of about four percent.