Middlesex London Health Unit to merge with four others

Five health units, which cover the area from Windsor to Sarnia to Woodstock, could soon become a single entity.

The Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU), Lambton Health Unit, Southwestern Health Unit, Chatham-Kent Health Unit and Windsor-Essex Health Unit are expected to be unified.

Public input for the proposed merger is expected to be gathered this summer, with a final decision made this fall, and changes taking effect by April 2020.

It remains unclear what will happen to staff and office locations in London, Point Edward, St. Thomas, Chatham and Windsor.

But MLHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie believes London would make a good central hub for the regional service, even though he is concerned about the impact of amalgamation.

“The connection to communities and people who care about communities is so important to our work," Mackie says.

"What you can do from a public health perspective depends on what the interests and values of your community are, and we’ve got to maintain our best talent, there is a lot of uncertainty and we don’t want our best people leaving.”

No decisions have been made, but the London region Board of Health will discuss the planned changes at this week's meeting.

The MLHU had already been predicting a multi-million dollar funding shortfall after the provincial budget was unveiled.

Part of the Ontario budget included a plan to reduce the number of health units from 35 to 10.