Ottawa Public Health Struggles Amid Rising Infectious Diseases, Urges Funding Increase | Local News

Ottawa’s public health agency is facing challenges in responding to the increasing number of infectious diseases, according to a recent report. The rise in reported cases has made it more difficult for Ottawa Public Health (OPH) to manage and control the spread of these diseases effectively.

In its latest report, OPH is calling on the city’s board of health to request additional funding from Ontario’s Health Ministry to enhance its capacity to handle infectious diseases. The agency is also urging the ministry to expedite the development of a provincial tool to assist in managing and monitoring these diseases.

The report highlights the strain on OPH’s resources due to the growing caseload and the complexity of managing infectious diseases. The agency’s core responsibilities include investigating cases, supporting infected patients, and tracing contacts to prevent the spread of diseases. However, OPH’s workload has significantly increased in recent years, attributed to factors such as rising disease rates, population growth, and the emergence of new diseases caused by climate change.

Last year, OPH received 7,608 confirmed reports of infectious diseases, excluding COVID-19 and the flu. This marked a more than six percent increase compared to the pre-pandemic average between 2017 and 2019. Diseases such as Lyme disease, HIV, and Invasive Group A streptococcal disease (iGAS) saw substantial increases in confirmed reports, indicating a growing trend in infectious diseases in the city.

In addition to the rise in infectious diseases, OPH faces challenges such as inadequate access to family doctors and antibiotic-resistant cases. The agency is also hindered by an outdated provincial reporting tool, which is insufficient to meet current reporting standards. OPH emphasizes the need for updated technology to streamline case and contact management efficiently.

Dr. Giorgia Sulis, an infectious disease physician and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, expressed concerns over the resurgence of vaccine-preventable infections like measles in the city. She attributed this trend to the decline in vaccination coverage among young people during the pandemic, emphasizing the importance of addressing other infectious diseases alongside COVID-19.

OPH is seeking additional funding to support the equivalent of five full-time employees to enhance its capacity in managing infectious diseases. The agency anticipates the need for further investment in staffing as the city’s population continues to grow. The report will be presented to the board of health on June 17 for consideration.

In response to OPH’s funding concerns, a spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones stated that the province has increased its investment in OPH by over 14 percent since 2018. The province also allocated $100 million to public health units during the COVID-19 pandemic and plans to restore the provincial/municipal cost-sharing model. Additionally, the province will increase base funding by one percent annually for the next three years to support public health initiatives.