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Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough health units agree to a voluntary merger

DAN CEARNS The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) and Peterborough Public Health (PPH) have agreed to move forward with a voluntary merger.

The decision was announced jointly by both health units on Wednesday, February 28th.

“In August 2023, the Ministry of Health announced plans to strengthen the public health sector by offering one-time funding, resources and support to local public health agencies that decide to voluntarily merge by January 1st, 2025. In response to this announcement, the Boards of Health for HKPR District Health Unit and PPH decided to move forward with a process to explore the impacts of a voluntary merger. In November 2023, a Joint Board Merger Exploration Working Group was established with representatives from both health units and external consulting firm Sense & Nous to prepare a comprehensive Feasibility Assessment Report. These findings were recently presented to both Boards of Health for consideration to help make an informed decision,” a press release from HKPR stated.

HKPR board Chair David Marshall stated at a press conference that HKPR and PPH “have an extensive history of collaboration and share similar geographic, demographic, health status and population characteristics.”

While both boards of health have agreed to the merger, the provincial government will still need to approve the merger.

“We’re working towards a business case for the beginning of April. That’s where we’re at right now, and that’s where we’re focusing our energies,” PPH board chair Joy Lachica said.

HKPR Medical Officer of Health Dr. Natalie Bocking told reporters she is “excited by the opportunity that a merger such as this affords.”

“What this affords us right now is to bring the strengths forward of each of our organizations to look at how we can maintain our services and strengthen them in the environment we find ourselves in now,” she added.

While both health units explored the possibility of other partners, it became apparent during the process they were a natural fit to merge.

“Other merger partners were explored but not considered. We are also aware that other neighbouring health units either do not meet the provincial criteria for mergers or are already in talks with local public health agencies,” Ms. Lachica said.

No new name for the merging health units has been selected yet.

Both health units will also have to make a decision on how the organizational structure will work because each of them currently has a medical officer of health.

“The structure of the leadership of the newly merged board of health, assuming that happens, is going to be a major consideration over the next few months,” Mr. Marshall explained. “It offers an opportunity to look at what is the best leadership structure moving forward, given that the organization will basically double in size.”

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