ONA: Building public Health Care
From the mid-1970s, ONA began calling for the creation and provincial funding of “community health centres” (different from those existing today) as a humane way of reducing the use and, hence, cost of health services in Ontario. ONA recommended that “community health centres” in all towns and cities across Ontario be established for operation 24 hours a day. Staffed by nurses with a range of specialties, the centres, in ONA’s vision at the time, would offer prenatal classes, family planning and venereal disease clinics, T.B. and communicable disease clinics, health counselling and teaching to the public, community health nursing for senior citizens, mental health clinics, child health conferences and immunization clinics.
In the 1980s, ONA argued for full provincial government funding of public health services in Ontario. Underlining that only 1.5 cents per health care dollar was spent by the provincial government on public health education and promotion, ONA made the point that this resulted in uneven delivery of public health services given the varying ability of municipal governments to invest in public health units.
By June 1988, ONA was defining “community health nursing” and calling for 100 per cent funding by the Ontario Ministry of Health. ONA identified three components of community health nursing: prevention, education and direct care. This was and continues to be seen by ONA as part of a holistic approach to improving population health in Ontario.
Despite these and similar proposals by ONA and other collective voices, Ontario is still lacking a sturdy, integrated community-public health component in the health system. In early April 2013, the Ontario government announced new funding for projects in community health, but only 17 Community Health Centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres out of 101 such centres in the province are benefiting from this long awaited new injection of funds.