Bhutila Karpoche tables public health equity and pandemic preparedness bill

QUEEN’S PARK — Bhutila Karpoche, MPP for Parkdale-High Park, will be tabling her private member’s bill the Pandemic Preparedness Act 2022 to ensure Ontario is better prepared for future public health crises. 

The bill seeks to protect the funding of public health units for programs that are cost shared with municipalities. The bill also requires the Minister of Health to establish a Pandemic Preparedness Review Committee composed of public health and pandemic preparedness experts and community leaders from equity-seeking groups, to review the province’s pandemic response plan every five years and ensure it is equitable. 
“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare how unprepared Ontario was for a major public health crisis, and how those already pushed to the margins in our society, including Black, Indigenous and racialized communities, are most adversely impacted.  
The Ford government was targeting public health units for devastating funding cuts before the pandemic began, and successive governments have neglected Ontario’s pandemic preparedness plan for many years,” said Karpoche. 
“It is clearer than ever how much Ontarians rely on our local public health units, not just in crises, but for everyday preventive response to local emerging health trends. The time is now to not only protect public health units, but ensure our province is prepared for the next crisis, with a focus on equity.” 
Karpoche’s bill echoes calls for the protection of public health unit funding and for pandemic preparedness from organizations such as the Association of Public Health Agencies (alPHa), the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). 

Dr. Kate Mulligan, member of the board of Toronto Public Health and faculty member at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health 

"A resilient, sustainable and equitable public health system needs resilient, sustainable and equitable funding. This bill will help Ontario's diverse communities make plans that they know they can deliver on, to promote our health and keep us safe from current and future public health emergencies." 

Dr. Philip Berger, Officer of the Order of Canada and 2018 Inductee to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame 
“Lower-income neighborhoods became COVID traps because of the colossal failure of the provincial government to safeguard these communities whose residents sustained our services and economy. With representatives of the places in our province hardest hit by COVID appointed to the Pandemic Preparedness Review Committee, governments will no longer be able to neglect Ontarians at greatest risk in future pandemics.” 

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