Northwestern Ontario Health Units Reject Merger Proposal

Northwestern Health Unit

KENORA – HEALTH – The Boards of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) and Thunder BayDistrict Health Unit (TBDHU) announced that they will not move forward with a business case for a voluntary merger of the two health units under the Province’s Strengthening Public Health Strategy.

Province Offers Incentives for Voluntary Mergers

In August 2023, the Ministry of Health announced plans to strengthen the public health sector. This included offering one-time funding, resources, and support to local public health agencies that decide to voluntarily merge by January 1, 2025.

In response, the Boards of Health for NWHU and TBDHU formed a Voluntary Merger Assessment Committee. This committee, with representatives from both health units, retained a third-party consultant, MNP LLP, to explore the viability of a merger for the two health units in the province’s northwest.

“Mergers have been discussed by the Province for quite some time, so when the Ministry presented the opportunity to evaluate the viability of a merger in our region, we felt it was important to explore,” said Marilyn Herbacz, NWHU CEO.

Geography and Local Needs Key Concerns

The Voluntary Merger Assessment Committee, along with MNP, completed stakeholder engagement and a significant review of documentation to determine whether a merger would be viable. The final result indicates that a merger between NWHU and TBDHU would not meet the desired outcomes of the Province’s Strengthening Public Health strategy.

Geography was a significant consideration. Currently, NWHU serves 19 municipalities across an area of 173,828 km2 with a population of approximately 82,000. A merger with TBDHU would result in a catchment area of over 400,000 km2. This would limit the organization’s ability to adapt services to meet the diverse local health needs. Lengthy travel times, particularly in unfavourable conditions, would challenge centralized services or efficiency improvements.

“While there are similarities in programming, there are notable differences in type and the operational model of programming based on the unique context of each health unit. A merged entity would still need to have different programming to meet the needs of communities” Stated Dr. Young Hoon, NWHU Medical Officer of Health.

Collaboration Remains a Priority

The merger assessment considered benefits and risks regarding programming, service delivery, finances, information technology, human resources, and infrastructure. While some benefits were identified, they did not outweigh the significant disruption and cost a merger would entail.

The Boards of Health also expressed concerns about ensuring adequate representation of all 34 municipalities within a merged entity.

Although the decision is not to pursue a merger, the process identified opportunities for additional collaboration between the health units. “There is a clear willingness from our senior leaders to work together where possible to support the health and well-being of the people of northwestern Ontario,” said NWHU Board of Health Chair, Doug Lawrance.

Northwestern Health Unit looks forward to continued participation in the review of the Ontario Public Health Standards and the public health funding methodology review. The goal is to support a truly strengthened public health system in Ontario, with a particular focus on northwestern communities.

For information about Northwestern Health Unit’s Board of Health and local public health programs and services, please visit

Previous articleEric Melillo MP – From Parliament Hill: After 9 Years This Liberal Government is Not Worth the Cost
Next articleWinnipeg Police Seek Help from Public in Steven Andrew MINGO Homicide Investigation or NNL offers news, information, opinions and positive ideas for Thunder Bay, Ontario, Northwestern Ontario and the world. NNL covers a large region of Ontario, but are also widely read around the country and the world. To reach us by email: Reach the Newsroom: (807) 355-1862