‘A very collaborative relationship:” Medical officer of health briefs Belleville council on upcoming merger

Dr. Ethan Toumishey – Photo via Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Dr. Ethan Toumishey, medical officer of health for Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, was at Belleville council on Monday, May 13 to shed light on Ontario’s ambitious plan to fortify public health infrastructure through voluntary mergers within local agencies.

Toumishey presented a deputation to the City of Belleville council on May 13. The deputation delved into the province’s initiative and highlighted its potential to bolster system capacity and efficiency.

He acknowledged the diligent efforts of local representatives, particularly highlighting the contributions of Councillors Thompson and Kelly. Toumishey underscored the significance of these councillors’ involvement in steering the exploration of potential mergers in local public health agencies.

Toumishey delivered a comprehensive presentation outlining ongoing initiatives, explaining that the goal of the project is to strengthen public health.

The “Strengthening Public Health” project is a provincial endeavour that was unveiled in August 2023. Toumishey defined three pivotal components of the review: redefining standards for local public health agencies, voluntary mergers, and funding reallocations.

“This is a very collaborative relationship,” Toumishey said.

Unlike previous modernization efforts, this initiative prioritizes augmenting capacity and resilience in the public health sphere. This is especially vital considering recent challenges such as the pandemic and substance abuse crises.

One crucial aspect discussed was financial support earmarked for the merger transition, ensuring no additional burden on local taxpayers. Toumishey assured council that the merger process aims to maintain existing frontline programs and potentially enhance service delivery.

“It is a supportive process,” he explained. “The merger transition funding is intended that you’re not going to have an increased burden on the local taxpayer.”
The collaborative effort between municipalities and health units seeks to optimize performance without compromising essential services.

Toumishey said skeptics have raised concerns regarding the timeline and objectives of the merger. He emphasized a collaborative approach, striving to set a precedent for effective amalgamations in the province.

Moreover, he assured council that chief medical officers and local services would remain integral post-merger and committed to retaining expertise and service accessibility.

Toumishey highlighted potential efficiencies from synergies and specialization in the merged entities. Back-office functions and resource allocation were identified as improvement areas to redirect resources toward frontline services. Anticipated outcomes include enhanced coordination, streamlined operations, and optimized resource utilization.

The presentation illustrated the ongoing feasibility assessments and business case development, which are crucial to realizing the merger’s potential benefits.

Toumishey reiterated the importance of sustained engagement and collaboration among stakeholders to successfully navigate the complex transition process.

In response to inquiries regarding anticipated monetary savings and reinvestment strategies, Toumishey outlined potential areas for optimization, such as IT systems, corporate functions, and workforce specialization. He stressed the importance of reinvesting any realized efficiencies back into frontline services, ensuring tangible improvements in healthcare delivery.

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