BCHU/HNHU Merger Updates

Current Status: Merger business case was sent to the Ministry of Health on May 31, 2024.

On April 17, 2024, the BCHU Board of Health voted to pursue the next step by signing a letter of intent to merge with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU). On April 23, 2024, the HNHU Board of Health also decided to pursue a business case for a merger with BCHU.

This process began following the Ministry of Health’s August 2023 announcement offering one-time funding, resources, and support for local public health agency mergers by January 1, 2025. BCHU, HNHU, as well as Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) began exploring potential alignments and options.

Since 2006, the provincial government has explored health unit mergers, initially without offering additional funding. This effort aimed to streamline operations and efficiencies within the public health system. However, the absence of promised financial support has consistently raised significant concerns.

In 2017, the Province assembled an expert panel to provide advice on enhancing the capacity of Ontario’s public health system. The review focused on key areas such as governance, funding, workforce, and service delivery. The findings highlighted the need for better coordination, increased funding, and strengthened workforce capacity to effectively respond to public health challenges.

In 2019, the government proposed mandatory mergers across Ontario to generate savings, but post-pandemic priorities and insights from COVID-19 have shifted the focus toward strengthening public health services. Consequently, the Ministry has indicated that merging health units no longer aligns with the province’s goals of creating fewer, larger health units. In August 2023, input from the public health sector, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) prompted the provincial government to announce a limited opportunity for voluntary mergers of neighboring health units with full funding. This initiative aims to create merged health units with greater critical mass, resulting in stronger, more resilient organizations.

The Ministry’s objective in supporting and financing voluntary mergers of health units is to strengthen public health services for all residents.

The substantial new provincial funding available through this merger initiative presents a significant advantage for both the Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU), which operate in a financially constrained, taxpayer-funded sector. This opportunity allows the merged health unit to invest in aligning, renewing, and upgrading programs, systems, policies, procedures, and technology.

After more than eight months of relationship-building, due diligence, and informed discussions, the BCHU Board of Health voted on April 17, 2024, to sign a letter of intent to merge with HNHU. Just days later, on April 23, 2024, the HNHU Board of Health also decided to pursue the merger. This joint decision marks the next phase in creating a unified public health agency that addresses diverse needs and fosters transparency and trust. The proposed merger represents a strategic alignment and partnership between like-minded organizations dedicated to building a healthier future for all.

Through this exploration, BCHU and HNHU have identified several key benefits for Brantford, Brant, Haldimand, and Norfolk, their residents, and the current and prospective staff of the merged health unit.

August 2023 Ministry of Health Announces Strengthening Public Health Strategy

Step 1

December 2023 Initial Conversations
April 2024 Each Board of Health member approves proceeding

Step 2

May 2024 Submit Business Case to Ministry

Step 3

August – December 2024 Ministry of Health approvals and funding commitment
November 2024 – March 2025 Detailed due diligence and implementation planning

Step 4

January – May 2025 Implementation Begins

Throughout this process, BCHU and HNHU have identified several key benefits that would be advantageous in a merged organization, including:

  • The Province’s substantial funding offer for this merger initiative is a unique opportunity that would not otherwise be available.
  • Increased capability to address emerging public health challenges.
  • Enhanced coordination and efficiency in delivering public health services.
  • Improved access to specialized expertise and resources.
  • Improved continuity of care and service delivery for residents.
  • Enhanced ability to implement innovative programs and initiatives.
  • Improved alignment of public health policies and procedures.
  • Enhanced ability to attract and retain top public health professionals.
  • Strengthened advocacy voice for public health funding and policy support.