Just Recovery Simcoe and Ramara Township
By Michael Douglas Concerned Citizens of Ramara
Ramara Township is one of sixteen municipalities, plus the cities of Barrie and Orillia located in Simcoe County. The Township of Ramara is located on the northeastern shores of Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching and is the home of a permanent population for 9,488 residents. In some ways Ramara Township is typical to the other townships in Simcoe County and in other ways not at all.
So, where is the municipality of Ramara Township with implementing the necessary measures to assist its residents to recover as well as possible from the many devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? A very basic search of the Ramara Township website would indicate that the concept of a Just Recovery still remains an unrecognized part of the post coronavirus /COVID-19 vocabulary.
The only discernable reference to a Just Recovery to be found on the Ramara Township website are three letters acknowledged as received in the Regular Council Agenda dated Monday, July 13, 2020. The letters called on local leaders to implement a sustainable, just recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
The following points were also brought to the attention of the Ramara Township council members in the letters:
1. We must make our communities more resilient, equitable and better prepared to withstand future crises, including the emerging impacts of the climate crisis.
2. People’s health and wellbeing must be the central focus in all of our current and future decisions and planning. We require more than investment in a robust healthcare infrastructure since only 20% of health outcomes are related to it. The other 80% of our health outcomes result from the social, economic, and natural environments in which we live and work. These conditions can absolutely be changed by our policy and planning choices.
3. Invest in People, Invest in Nature, and Invest in Communities – be applied to municipal decision making. Specifically, I request that council direct staff to ensure that any recovery plans, related committee work and community improvement projects reflect these principles.
The following message referring to Ramara Reopens is located on the Ramara Township website.
Ramara’s Roadmap to a Safe Reopening
The Township of Ramara is committed to returning to a new normal as the province and the Township move to a recovery phase from the COVID-19 pandemic. We ask residents during this time to remain vigilant in following provincial directives to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to remain patient with the Township as it reopens.
The Township of Ramara Reopening plan is focused on providing safe municipal facilities, services and programs to the community. While the Township will continue to follow the recommendations provided by the Provinces reopening plan, it does not necessarily mean that the Township will make the changes at the same time as the Province.
The Province’s reopening plan focuses on public spaces and businesses, while the Township of Ramara’s plan is focused on municipal services and spaces. The Township will continue to keep staff and the public aware of any and all changes regarding the reopening of municipal facilities and and the restarting of any services or programs that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps the reference to a new normal is the closest possible reference to a potential Just Recovery from the standpoint of Ramara Township; minus a detailed plan.
One very significant part of a Just Recovery in Simcoe County, as well as the rest of Ontario and all areas of Canada and internationally, is the recognition that major improvements in health care is indisputably a large factor in our recovery. Delivering adequate, equitable and predictable funding with an emphasis on preparedness should now be well appreciated as a must in our current recovery from the destructive effects of COVID-19.
It is widely known that variations and abrupt changes in healthcare funding adversely affects the implementation and success of healthcare programmes and health promotion. Less populated rural communities like Ramara Township already struggle to afford public health initiatives despite many residents having comparatively worse health.
Where is Ramara Township in establishing health care as a primary part of a Just Recovery? The following comments were allowed to be included in the final budget meeting being held on December the 9th, 2019 regarding Ramara Township’s continued disregard for Physician Recruitment and Retention for the budget year 2020.
The decision on the part of Ramara Township council on Monday, March 11th, 2019 not to reinstate the $8,000 per year funding to the collaborative Physician Recruitment and Retention program was disturbingly short sighted. This decision on the part of Ramara Township council did not represent a well thought out approach to local health care.
Each of the Ramara Township council members must recognize that they are responsible for the overall health and wellbeing of Ramara Township residents, which includes working to achieve equal access to local health care. The $8,000 per year contribution from Ramara Township in this joint community venture is equivalent to approximately a cup of coffee per Ramara Township tax payer. Apparently close to 1800 people have found doctors in the Orillia area over the years, which is due to a large extent to the Physician Recruitment and Retention program.
We have all heard the phrase “pull your own weight”, which is from our farming history where beasts of burden (horses, oxen) were yoked together and the entire team was responsible for doing its share. Obviously, it was possible to hang back and let others do the greater share of the work. Health care is a must for all communities and Ramara Township needs to pull our own weight where the burden of Physician Recruitment and Retention is concerned, just as the other communities in the area including Oro-Medonte, Severn, Orillia and Rama have committed to doing.
As the Community Physician Recruitment Liaison, Pat Thor mentioned, “Any time we recruit a new doctor to our area the residents of Ramara benefit from that”. Opting out of support for programs like doctor recruitment and other community-based programs simply diminishes the health care opportunities for all citizens who would jointly benefit, and undermines the viability of our communities. Not participating in collaborative health care initiatives clearly compromises the pursuit of well-planned development in Ramara Township.
Doing nothing to address the shortage of rural physicians is pretty much guaranteed to produce nothing. The Northern and Rural Recruitment and Retention (NRRR) Initiative offers taxable financial incentives to each eligible physician who establishes a full-time practice in an eligible community of the province. Please see the following link to the Health Force Ontario Northern and Rural Recruitment and Retention Initiative Guidelines. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/northernhealth/nrrr.aspx The prospects of a physician or group of physicians locating in Ramara Township may be slim, even with an available clinic and incentives, however there must at least be participation on the part of Ramara Township in the multi-community efforts of the Physician Recruitment and Retention program that has proven to be successful over the years. Will Ramara Township recognize their responsibility to support the overall health and wellbeing of Ramara Township residents by reinstating the $8,000 per year funding to the collaborative Physician Recruitment and Retention program, and restore Ramara Township’s fair participation in striving to gain equal access to local health care?
The following response was received from Ramara Township on December 2, 2019
“At this time,Council has decided not contribute to the Doctor Recruitment program for the 2020 budget. This was discussed and voted on during the Committee of the Whole 2020 budget meeting held on November 18th, 2019. This decision was then ratified at the Council meeting held on November 25th, 2019.”
April 18, 2019, Sunonline /Orillia, Editorial: Ramara Council Says No To Doctors
Will Ramara Township now take genuine measures to participate in establishing healthcare as a primary part of a Just Recovery for Ramara Township? This is still to be determined.
Time to Act
It is essential to our collective well-being that we all recognize this opportunity to get behind a Just Recovery in Simcoe County and across Canada. Visit www.justrecoverysimcoe.ca to learn more.
for the Concerned Citizens of Ramara
Concerned Citizens of Ramara is a proud member of Just Recovery Simcoe, an alliance between 40 groups and businesses from across Simcoe County proposing solutions that focus on increasing the health of people, our communities and nature.
Just Recovery Simcoe is an alliance of 40+ groups from across Simcoe County and beyond. Their core belief is that a healthy community is one that is equitable, environmentally friendly, and one that seeks to provide healthy places to live and work for all. JustRecoverySimcoe.ca