Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Board of Health says it, along with the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District (LGLD) Board of Health, and the Hastings Prince Edward (HPE) Board of Health, have endorsed investigating the feasibility of a potential merger.
“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 KFLA, in a release Wednesday.
“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.”
In August, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced funding to local public health agencies that voluntarily merge.
The Ford government had proposed consolidating the province’s public-health units in 2019, but put those plans on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
Under the province’s voluntary merger plan, one-time transition funding would be provided to public health agencies, along with access to a three-year merger support fund if public health agencies do proceed.
Any merger would still require the approval of the public health boards involved.
The Kingston-region public health units that cover the area from Trenton to Cornwall and north to Smiths Falls announced they had started exploring the possibility of merging back in October.
“We continue to work positively with our neighbouring health units,” said LGLD chair, Peter McKenna.
“We look forward to continuing conversations about how a voluntary merger could enrich local public health service delivery in our region.”
Each board will independently decide whether they want to move forward with the idea of merging, according to Wednesday’s release.
“Over the past several weeks, we have had productive conversations with neighboring 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.”
If the boards approve a merger a proposal must be submitted to the Ministry of Health for approval by March.
— with files from Global’s Darryn Davis and The Canadian Press