Health units opt against merger

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After review, Chatham-Kent Public Health has decided not to voluntarily merge with its counterpart in Lambton County.
The decision was announced Feb. 22, following a report from Roving Capacity, an independent consulting firm that probed the notion of joining the two health units.

According to a municipal media release, the independent report was presented to both boards earlier this month. It indicated that while the move would be a “merger of equals,” both boards turned down the idea, citing the fact there’s “no compelling reason for the two health units to undertake a merger at this time.”

However, the review highlighted ways Chatham-Kent and Lambton County can work together to support each other to deliver health programs for all citizens.

“Our vision is for everyone in Chatham-Kent to have the opportunity to reach optimal health and high-quality of life,” said Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor, chair of the Chatham-Kent board of health, “We do this by working with the community to deliver evidence-informed, equity-focused programs and services that protect and promote the health of all residents.

“While we have made the decision not to move forward with a merger at this time, the review demonstrated the desire for ongoing partnership and collaborations with Lambton Public Health as we support each other to reach the vision for our communities,” McGregor stated.

The release stated that participating in the review process provided an opportunity for both health units to review how each agency operates, the relationships they have with one another, and the benefits of being part of their respective municipalities.

Both organizations have directed administration to explore potential partnerships and increased collaboration between the two.

Lambton County Warden Kevin Marriott, who serves as chair of the Lambton board of health, said the review process “affirmed a great deal about our shared communities of interest with Chatham-Kent and will continue to advocate for local connectedness and a visible presence in our communities.”

In 2019, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government proposed the consolidation of health units throughout the province but this was put on hold due to the pandemic. In 2021, the idea was floated to join the health units of Windsor-Essex, London-Middlesex, Chatham-Kent, Lambton County and Elgin County into one public health agency.

In 2023, the government indicated it would provide one-time funding to health units that voluntarily merge.

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