Bailey urges Lambton to merge with CK public health

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Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey is urging local public health leaders to consider a merger with Chatham-Kent rather than risk a provincially mandated consolidation that could create a much regional health unit.
“It’s reasonable to assume the boundaries will change,” says Bailey in light of a provincial directive to reduce public health authorities in Ontario from 35 to 10. “It’s better to be the author of your own future than have it forced on you,” he says.
Health units deliver services ranging from disease prevention, food safety and immunizations to harm reduction, sexual health and parenting support.
The Ford government’s spring budget alarmed public health officials by announcing a “modernization” of health units. Initial reports suggested the Lambton Health Unit could be part of a regional health unit from London to Windsor.
The government expects the move to save $200 million. It also plans to increase the share of public health costs that municipalities pay.
Part of Doug Ford’s election platform was to cut spending, says Bailey. “This is part of that change.” 
But it may be possible for Lambton to avoid a massive consolidation and maintain local control of public health if talks are initiated with Chatham-Kent, the MPP says.
He met recently with Lambton County officials who oversee local public health and assured them that no changes will be made without more consultation.
That came as a relief, says Mayor Mike Bradley. A huge consolidation of public health services “won’t be functional,” he says.
“We will lose our identity and our voice. We might have one person at the table on a 20-person board,” says Bradley. “Right now we are hands-on with a very responsible board that directs all the different health issues in Sarnia-Lambton.”
To Lambton County’s credit and thanks to the city/county amalgamation in 1991, we don’t have the duplication that other health units do, he adds. 
Deputy Warden Kevin Marriott was at the meeting with Bailey, which was also attended by Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton.
“It was very productive because they made it clear that no decisions have been made and consultations will continue through the summer,” says Marriott. “No lines have been drawn yet.”
Bailey’s suggestion that Sarnia Lambton could combine with Chatham Kent public health is “interesting,” Marriott added. 
“We already have the same education boundaries and share some of the same hospital services.”
In a phone interview, Bailey said the province should consider the Lambton Health Unit “a model for the province” since it already serves both city and county and has found efficiencies in doing that.
“I really don’t see it working if there was consolidation between Lambton, London and Windsor,” Bailey says.  “I’d be happy to take that case to the minister.”
Meanwhile, Lambton County is in the middle of negotiating space for its shared services at Bayside Centre in downtown Sarnia, which include offices for public health workers.  
It’s critical that the county and the centre’s new owner, Seasons Retirement Communities, reach a deal in order for Seasons to move forward with a $40 million redevelopment of the aging mall.
On July 3, county council directed staff to complete negotiations with Seasons by the end of September even though consolidation with other public health units may reduce how many offices are required by Lambton Shared Services.
“After meeting with Bob and Monte, I am convinced any changes with staff won’t be major enough that we need different space,” Marriott says. 
“We can’t be 100 per cent sure, but we are optimistic they’ll find efficiencies without upsetting the apple cart.
“We felt a lot better after that meeting.”

One Response to “Bailey urges Lambton to merge with CK public health”

  1. Fred Sterling

    Bob Bailey should start using his head for more than a hat rest. Look what happened when CEE hospital amalgamate with Sarnia General,we almost lost Petrolia Hospital.Just look at what has happen to Wallaceburg hospital when they were forced to amalgamate.I think it is about time the tax payers start telling our governments where to go.