Ontario budget raises concern about MLHU plan to move to Citi Plaza

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Questions are swirling around the future of the Middlesex-London Health Unit after the provincial budget outlined a plan to merge public health agencies into larger regional offices.

The MLHU has a signed lease and millions of dollars planned to renovate Citi Plaza, and some are now second-guessing the health unit’s controversial decision to move.

Lucan-Biddulph Mayor Cathy Burghardt-Jesson says she wasn’t surprised when the provincial government announced it will reduce the number of health units in Ontario from 35 to 10.

“We saw it coming, I don’t know why others didn’t.”

She says uncertainty about the roles and responsibilities of health units after last year’s election were part of the reason Middlesex County council opposed the decision to relocate.

“Every party talked about making efficiencies and one of the targets that they had were public health units and making them larger.”

Middlesex County council rents 50 King Street to the health unit.

The decision to move became so controversial it took a judge’s ruling to confirm the health unit’s right to relocate.

The new headquarters will see 70,000 square feet of Citi Plaza transformed, with city hall having just provided a $5.2 million loan for the renovations.

City councillor Elizabeth Peloza says Thursday’s merger announcement creates uncertainty.

“We don’t know if it’s big enough, if it’s the right facilities to be put into it, hopefully it’s not going to be obsolete. London is a hub, hopefully it stays here, but we don’t know.”

MLHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie suggests there is flexibility in their plan, and their lease, and stands behind the decision to move.

“The Middlesex-London Health Unit has a great lease with Citi Plaza. I think whatever the public health structure looks like in the future, that will be a great property to do public health work.”

Burghardt-Jesson maintains that the health unit should have waited for provincial government plans to be in place before signing a lease.

Health unit officials have yet to receive more details about the province’s merger plans.



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