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Grey Bruce top doctor's 2020 salary indicative of a year like no other

Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce Chief Medical Officer of Health

BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — Public sector salaries in 2020 were disclosed for all public sector employees who were paid $100,000 or more during the year. It's called The Sunshine List and it is made public because of the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act. This year, it was published on March 19 and it revealed a 64% year-over-year pay increase for Grey Bruce Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ian Arra.

Dr. Arra is ranked first on the list of Ontario Chief Medical Officers of Health and reportedly earned $631,510 plus $1,690 in benefits in 2020. This made him the highest paid Medical Officer of Health among 34 Public Health Units in the province, appearing 23rd on a list of over 200,000 public sector employees overall.

The disclosure is indicative of a year like no other. "Dr. Arra has worked every day since cases were first identified in 2020," said Sue Paterson, chair of the Grey Bruce Board of Health. According to Paterson, the region's top doctor doubled his regular hours and worked tirelessly to stay on top of the COVID-19 pandemic. A huge advocate for public communication, Arra continues to issue daily updates and news releases regarding COVID-19 cases, vaccine rollouts and COVID-19 resources — all of this in addition to his regular duties as Chief Medical Officer.

Paterson further explained the role of the Medical Officer of Health, issuing a response to recent media reports about Dr. Arra's salary:

"Throughout all of 2020 and to date, we do not have an Associate Medical Officer of Health. There are certain legislated responsibilities and authority that can only be performed by a Medical Officer of Health or a designated Associate appointed by the Minister. These responsibilities cannot be performed by a physician consultant. A physician consultant does not have the legislative authority to fulfill the Medical Officer of Health on-call requirement as each health unit must have an Medical Officer of Health on call at all times, 24 hours a day. As such, there is no one for whom Dr Arra could pass over the legislated responsibilities.

We have had physician consultants from time to time. Dr Li was in a supporting role until the end of July (ironically hired by Toronto Public Health as a physician consultant)  but did not fulfill the MOH on-call requirements. Dr Cole followed with a part-time supporting role from end of September to November, a one to two days a week and again did not fulfill the Medical Officer of Health on-call requirements. A new full time physician consultant was hired in February 2021.

From the beginning of the pandemic, Dr Arra took full responsibility, and worked literally every day, to ensure the health and wellbeing of the residents of Grey Bruce. In addition to his regular hours, he worked the equivalent of almost another year in overtime in the final ten months of 2020. In terms of equity, it is noteworthy he received the same overtime rate as would be available to any unionized staff putting in those kinds of overtime hours. These overtime rates, for all union and non-union positions, are eligible for the provisions under the provincial government’s extraordinary funding related to COVID-19."

The office of the Ontario Minister of Health, Christine Elliot also issued the following statement with regard to the salaries of Medical Officers of Health:

"Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), each board of health must appoint a full-time Medical Officer of Health for the public health unit, who reports directly to the board of health on public health issues and is responsible to the board of health for the management of public health programs and services.

As employees of boards of health, Medical Officer of Health base salaries are paid by boards of health at levels set by the local boards, and according to the municipality’s professional salary scale and benefit policies.

As part of the Medical Officer of Health Compensation Initiative, the Ministry of Health currently provides boards of health with additional funding required to fund eligible Medical Officer of Health positions within the salary ranges initially established as part of the 2008 Physician Services Agreement and continued under subsequent agreements.

Under the Medical Officer of Health Compensation Initiative, the ministry may fund the difference between the provincially approved salary grid and base salaries established by local boards of health, if specific requirements for the initiative are met. To be clear, boards of health are required to provide details of their Medical Officer of Health positions annually via an application to the ministry.

We are unable to comment on decisions made by local boards of health related to base salaries of staff. For questions related to base salaries, boards of health should be contacted directly (as the employers)."

By comparison, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner earned $363,219 plus $1,138 in benefits — an increase of 25% over 2019. Miriam Klassen, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Huron and Perth, earned $387,936.83 plus $1,198.80 in benefits — an increase of 31%.


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