Merger of local Boards of Health could ‘strengthen public health capacity’

KFL&A Public Health main offices, located on Portsmouth Ave. Kingstonist file photo.

Three local public health agencies (LPHAs) are considering a potential voluntary merger. 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 endorsed investigating the feasibility of a merger, according to a release from KFL&A Public Health.

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, Public Health stated. This announcement also included one-time funding, resources, and supports to LPHAs that decide to voluntarily merge. According to the release, the province has indicated that any cost efficiencies realized by a merger would be retained by LPHAs to further support the local delivery of programs and services.

As previously reported, at the KFL&A Board of Health (BOH) meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Piotr Oglaza made a presentation prepared by the provincial Ministry of Health called Strengthening Public Health: Outcomes and Objectives to Support Voluntary Mergers, which was then discussed by all members. At that time, the KFL&A Board of Health voted to endorse, in principle, further investigation of the feasibility of a potential voluntary merger between the three neighbouring Public Health organizations.

“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.”

In the release, KFL&A Public Health said the province has set 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.

“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,” added 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.”

According to the release, the feasibility of a potential merger will be considered, and each Board will independently decide whether they wish to move forward. Public Health said that 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. 

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