Peterborough and Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge boards of health vote to merge the two health units

In a move slated to "strengthen" public health together, the boards of Peterborough Public Health (PPH) and Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU) have voted to voluntarily merge.

The boards announced in a joint media release on Wednesday (February 28) they will go ahead and seek provincial approval and funding to support the merger.

In August 2023, the Ontario Ministry of Health announced plans aimed at strengthening the public health sector by offering one-time funding, resources, and supports to local public health agencies that decide to voluntarily merge by January 1, 2025.

In response to this announcement, the HKPRDHU and PPH boards decided to move forward with a process to explore the impacts of a voluntary merger.

"We have been diligent in the timeframe provided to review and consider all possible outcomes and impacts of a voluntary merger," said David Marshall, HKPR board chair, in a media release.

"Ultimately, we agreed that by merging with (PPH) we can strengthen our capacity to deliver exceptional public health programs and services, and to better respond to the unique needs of our small urban and rural communities."

In November 2023, a joint board merger exploration working group was established with representatives from both health units and the external consulting firm Sense & Nous to prepare a comprehensive feasibility assessment report.

Both boards of health recently reviewed the report's findings.

"Throughout this process, it was quickly identified that both HKPRDHU and PPH have an extensive history of collaboration and share similar geographic, demographic, health status and population characteristics," the media release noted.

"Both organizations are also dedicated to reducing health inequities and addressing the most pressing public health challenges faced by the urban, rural, and Indigenous communities that they serve."

During an HKPRDHU meeting on February 15, HKPRDHU decided to proceed with a proposal to voluntary merge with PPH.

During PPH's meeting the following week on February 21, the PPH board of health also decided to proceed with a proposal to voluntary merge with HKPRDHU.

"Over the past several months, we have carefully examined how a merger can strengthen the services that we provide to our communities," said Joy Lachica, PPH board chair and Peterborough city councillor. "This process revealed that joining together offers us the best pathway possible to protect and promote public health and keep our residents healthy. We are thrilled to start this journey together."

The HKPRDHU and PPH boards of health will submit a joint voluntary merger application to the Ontario government by April 2. The application will aim to demonstrate how a proposed merger would benefit the communities served by the health units, while supporting outcomes and priorities identified for public health by the Ministry of Health.

Mergers of public health units require provincial legislative change and will not be definitive until the government approves the merger and commits to funding the initiative.

Both PPH and HKPRDHU will continue to operate independently during the provincial review period.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, KawarthaNOW