Local health unit investigating feasibility of merger with neighbouring health agencies

LGL Health Unit

Local Boards of Health are giving their support to investigate a merger with their neighbouring public health agencies. Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Board of Health, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District (LGLD) Board of Health, and the Hastings Prince Edward (HPE) Board of Health have all endorsed investigating the feasibility of a potential merger between these local public health agencies (LPHAs).

Officials explain that this consideration has been brought forward in response to the Ontario Ministry of Health's announcement in August 2023 to strengthen the public health sector. This announcement also included one-time funding, resources, and support to LPHAs that decide to voluntarily merge. 

The province has also indicated that any cost efficiencies realized by a merger would be retained by LPHAs to further support the local delivery of programs and services. 

The province has set some additional objectives for public health mergers:

- A minimum population base of 500,000.
- Improve organizational performance.
- Sustain leadership structures.
- Sustain competencies and capacities for specialized positions.
- Support alignment and coordination with partners.
- Support alignment and partnerships within communities and priority populations.

"Our agencies have the same goal to support progress on improving population health outcomes while reducing health inequities in the communities we serve," said Wess Garrod, Chair of the KFL&A Board of Health. "If a voluntary merger offers a chance to strengthen our public health capacity to meet unexpected surges in demand and fully deliver core public health services, then it is an opportunity worth exploring." 

"We continue to work positively with our neighbouring health units," said Peter McKenna, Chair for the LGLD Board of Health. "We look forward to continuing conversations about how a voluntary merger could enrich local public health service delivery in our region."

"Over the past several weeks, we have had productive conversations with neighbouring public health units, exploring potential partnerships that could build on our existing strengths and meet the province's objectives to strengthen public health," said Jan O'Neill, Board Chair at HPEPH. "We are open to possibilities to improve capacity and coordination, and the community should be reassured that when exploring any such decision, we will prioritize our ability to maintain front-line service to meet local needs."

They all agreed that the feasibility of a potential merger will be considered, and each Board will independently decide whether they wish to move forward. If the Boards approve moving forward with a voluntary merger, they must submit a proposal to the Ministry of Health by March 2024. This proposal is then subject to approval by the Ministry of Health.  

With files by CFRA's Connor Ray