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Algoma Board of Health rejects merger with Sudbury

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Meeting Tuesday, the Algoma Board of Health unanimously rejected the possibility of a merger with Public Health Sudbury & Districts.

Leading the charge was Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker, who, along with city council, submitted a motion calling on the board to reject the merger.

“We didn’t want to see public health decisions in Sudbury made by folks living in Sudbury that could affect differing circumstances that we’ve got here in Sault Ste. Marie,” said Shoemaker.

Algoma Board of Health chair Sally Hagman said cost also played a factor in the decision.

“We didn’t think that it made sense to be spending a large, large amount of money to do what we’re already doing,” Hagman said.

“Those transition costs, marrying the information systems from both units, which are not married right now, would be very substantial.”

“Board members in particular, and municipalities in particular, in Algoma were concerned that with a larger entity, but the same number of board members, that there wouldn’t be the same level of representation and that especially smaller municipalities may not have a voice in that future governance structure,” added medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Loo.

Surprise, disappointment in Sudbury

Reaction to the decision in Sudbury was disappointment, but understanding.

“A little bit of a surprise and disappointing but at the same time I can understand why there are concerns,” said Rene Lapierre chair of the board at Public Health Sudbury and Districts.

“The board as well as the resolution that they put forward raised a few of their concerns there, but I respect each board's decision and we'll see what happens next.”

While the Sudbury board voted in favour, Lapierre said both health units needed to be in favour for the merger to happen.

Sudbury medical officer of health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe said she fully respect’s Algoma’s decision.

Algoma “decided the pros would outweigh the cons,” she added.

“This feasibility assessment was to look at the benefits, the risks with merging with Algoma public health and no other party. It would take quite an extensive review to do a similar assessment for another partnership.”

She said the benefits of a merger would have been the increase in staff capacity, the larger catchment area and “the ability to learn from each other.” 

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