OTTAWA -- The COVID-19 pandemic is burying the Ottawa Public Health budget.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says the health unit is running a $750,000 a month deficit in its operating budget for March and April.

Dr. Etches told the board that most of the deficit is related to staffing overtime, and hiring new occasional/temporary staff to help the health unit deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most of it is staffing costs, but if there are any supply costs or others they’re all being tracked. We’ve had to look at difference technology solutions. All of that will be part of the costing,” said Dr. Etches.

Ottawa Public Health has brought in 350 additional staff members to help with what Dr. Etches calls “a large operation” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff are conducting case/contact management of COVID-19 cases, handling outbreaks and providing information on phone calls.

The $750,000 a month deficit also includes a loss of revenue due to cancelled programs. Ottawa Public Health has cut back on dental clinics, sexual health services and food handler courses.

To offset the deficit, Ottawa Public Health has cut back on professional services, training, development and travel, but Dr. Etches notes “clearly it’s a big gap to makeup.”

The Medical Officer of Health told the Board of Health that the Ontario Government is “the likely source” of funds to help cover the deficit.

Dr. Etches notes the Ontario Government has stepped in to cover costs for flooding, H1N1 and other emergencies in the past.