If approved by county councillors the autonomous health board is expected to be comprised of four members from Oxford, two from Elgin and two from St. Thomas

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Oxford County public health is expected to merge with Elgin County public health as early as May 1, if given the green light by county council this week.

County councillors are being asked to approve the merger Wednesday with the proposed name of Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit.

“I’m hopeful county councilors will approve it and will continue down the road with the merger of the health units,” said Oxford Warden David Mayberry. “Both health units are interested in protecting and promoting good health. We’re headed in the same directions – so working together would be a good idea.”

The move is a preemptive measure that arose out of concern over a report published last year proposing Ontario merge its 36 current boards into 14 larger boards of health.

The two-county merger, which was proposed back in November, would service the roughly 200,000 people in Elgin County, Oxford County, and St. Thomas.

Mayberry said there will likely be “some good discussion” over the merger but he feels the larger unit would be better for public health overall.

“Sometimes being a bit bigger allows you to provide more services by having more expertise than a small health unit could supply on its own,” he said.

But he said the merger’s biggest challenge may be to win over Oxford county councillors.

“County councilors, at the end of the day, need to feel like this is the right decision,” Mayberry said. “And councillors need to feel they have still have some control over the direction we go in public health.”

The new combined board of health is proposed to have four members from Oxford municipal council, two members from St. Thomas and two members from the County of Elgin.

Mayberry said the province will likely approve the merger fairly quickly.

“The province has made no indication they didn’t support the merger,” he said.

If approved Mayberry, and director of public health Lynn Beath, will be submitting a one-time funding request for 100 per cent of ministry funding “to support the planning and implementation of the merger” over the next 12 to 18 months.

While the actual financial implications associated with the merger are unknown, the projected cost based on available information is $1,675,000.

The costs would cover a communications and rebranding plan, legal and accounting costs, information technology related to consolidation, project and change management and support to external consultants to support the merger as well as additional support to merge five bargaining unions.

Both health units will be required to jointly develop a draft terms of reference for the transition board for approval by each governance body for later this month.



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