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Northern Ontario health units to merge

Move part of provincewide consolidation
Algoma Public Health file photo

Provincial restructuring will see Algoma Public Health join with other organizations in northeastern Ontario and beyond.

The Sault-based organization will be merging with Muskoka, North Bay, Parry Sound, Sudbury, Porcupine (Timmins), Temiskaming, and part of Renfrew.

The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit confirmed today it will cease to exist April 1, 2020.

The change is part of the provincial government's plan to reduce the number of public health units from 35 to 10 and cut public health spending by $200 million by 2020-2021.

A spokesperson from Algoma Public Health, which employs 200 people across the district, was not immediately able to comment on the news.

The Ford government's plan to consolidate was confirmed as part of the provincial budget on April 11, but as of late April, Dr. Marlene Spruyt, APH medical officer of health and CEO, said she did not yet know what the geographical boundaries of the new organization would be or how it would affect employees.

“It gives a lot of our staff considerable anxiety because they are worried if their jobs are going to be lost, and I can’t answer that question. I’ve told them we’re doing everything we can to keep people employed this year and we don’t think there’ll be any layoffs this calendar year of 2019, but going forward we don’t know what they (the provincial government) are going to expect in finding those efficiencies,” Spruyt told SooToday after an April 24 meeting of the APH board.

APH, which marked 50 years last fall, received 70 per cent of its funding from the province last year, with the remaining 30 per cent coming from municipalities.

In November, the board approved a budget of $14,735,055 for 2019, a slight increase over the 2018 budget of $14,721,543, with a small surplus of $17,511.

Algoma Public Health is provincially mandated to promote and protect health and to prevent disease.

Its head office is based in Sault Ste. Marie, with satellite offices in Blind River, Elliot Lake and Wawa.

- with files from Maija Hoggett and Raymond Bowe