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Dr. Chris Mackie no longer CEO amid management changes at Middlesex-London Health Unit

Dr. Chris Mackie as seen in a February 2019 file photo.
Dr. Chris Mackie as seen in a February 2019 file photo. Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) has confirmed Michael Clarke will take over as CEO from Dr. Chris Mackie on an interim basis in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on The Craig Needles Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL, Mackie says the move will allow him to focus on his duties as medical officer of health.

Read more: Middlesex-London Health Unit mandates masks for transit riders, some businesses

“When your landscape and work demands and the whole function of your organization dramatically changes, it’s not surprising to see a change in structure.”

He says Michael Clarke, a former board member who also worked for Health Canada, joined the health unit in March to help out with “some of the pressures with COVID-19 and other things” and he will be taking over as interim CEO.

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“So he can take some of the administrative work. There’s so much medical officer of health work to be done right now with COVID,” Mackie said. “Even though our numbers are slowing down, the work isn’t.

“The other huge pressure is that the health-care system is working more as a system, which is great, and also draws a lot of my time into working with health-care partners.”

Additionally, Mackie says Dr. Alex Summers, his “right-hand” associate medical officer of health, has been redeployed to the Windsor-Essex County area as the region deals with huge outbreaks on farms.

“Their numbers are about 10 times higher than ours right now. Having him down there is fantastic, it’s the right place for him to be from the perspective of the system but it means I’m taking on the associate medical officer of health role that he did as well with our internal response to coronavirus,” he said.

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“There’s just a lot of medical officer of health work to be done.”

The decision was described as a “temporary” measure but no timeline was provided.

Click to play video 'Growing COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant workers in Ontario' Growing COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant workers in Ontario
Growing COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant workers in Ontario

“How long’s coronavirus going to last? Not sure. And then the health-care system work is really ramping up not down in spite of the lower coronavirus numbers,” Mackie said.

“I hopefully will have a little bit more clarity later in the summer.”

Mackie added that he’s been in talks with the board for some time, but conversations ramped up within the last week.

“Speaking with the board and (board chair and city councillor) Maureen Cassidy, they’re very supportive of my leadership as medical officer of health. I don’t think there’s much more to say about that,” he said.

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“I really enjoy working with this board of health and I think that the diversity of our board is a huge strength and it means they can make great decisions under pressure like this one is.”

When asked if compensation would be impacted by the change, Mackie said he “shouldn’t comment on that.”

Read more: Ontario government starts merging health agencies, fires nine LHIN executives

Having separate CEO and medical officer of health positions is not uncommon at health units in Ontario. Within the region, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has Dr. Wajid Ahmed as its medical officer of health, while Theresa Marentette serves as CEO and chief nursing officer. In Oxford, Elgin and St. Thomas, Cynthia St. John is the CEO of Southwestern Public Health, while Dr. Joyce Lock is medical officer of health.

Mackie was announced as the next medical officer of health and chief executive officer for the MLHU in February 2013, succeeding “Dr. Graham Pollett, who retired at the end of September 2012, after 18 years at the Health Unit’s helm.”