OTTAWA -- Ottawa Public Health says the post-Christmas spike in COVID-19 cases and the launch of the city's vaccination efforts pushed costs up in the first quarter of 2021.

According to a report and budget documents prepared for the city's board of health, OPH spent $23 million in base and one-time COVID-19 costs in the first quarter of 2021, exceeding the quarterly budget for those items by about $5.4 million.

The report says OPH is "projecting an over expenditure for the current fiscal year as a result of extraordinary costs related to COVID response and vaccine program," but ultimately believes the budget will be balanced by year's end, "with the assumption that the Province will provide full funding for these costs."

In the first three months of 2021, city staff say OPH spent more than $24.4 million on compensation, about 31 per cent of its annual budget of $79.3 million, and exceeded overtime spending by $400,000.

"The increased compensation costs are directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic response and the need to scale up the operations in support of the COVID-19 Vaccine Program by increasing overtime requirements, onboarding new casual staff in various capacities and not meeting vacancy allowance targets incorporated in the approved budget," the report says.

Case management efforts were strained in early 2021 due to a rapid rise in cases in January. More than 7,300 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2021, each of which required contact tracing and case management.

The report says the Ontario government has provided all health units with an assurance that there will be a process to request reimbursement of extraordinary costs related to the pandemic; however, to date, no further information has been made available.

The board of health meets at 5 p.m. June 21.