Future county council to consider health board

Lambton County Council Chambers on Broadway Street in Wyoming. April 2019. (Photo by County of Lambton)

Municipal elections are still a year away but the next Lambton County Council has already been tasked to address structural concerns regarding the board of health.

Sarnia Councillor Mike Stark was displeased with a recent decision to table a motion that sought to form a board of health to deal with public health matters and report back to council rather than having matters dealt with by the county’s committee system.

“I think that we should be dealing with this sooner rather than later and tabling it until the next council, in my view, is just not addressing the responsibilities that we have now,” he said.

Stark initially brought up the issue in September with concerns that proper discussions among all members weren’t happening frequently enough. Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley chimed in and suggested that a board of health include members of the public, similar to other boards of health.

Stark suggested using Chatham-Kent’s board of health as an example. Chatham-Kent’s board consists of four councillors, two citizen appointees, and one provincial appointee. The motion was tabled to October 6 so that previous reports on the matter could be recirculated to council members.

However, during the latest county council meeting, the motion was tabled for the next council to address during their first council meeting.

“I don’t think in the times we’re in, that that’s going to be productive for us for next year but I think we can stage it to have that discussion for the new county council,” said Bradley.

Stark called the decision “unfortunate” and said it’s important for them to be proactive.

“The way we are doing it now is kind of like a quasi afterthought given that we have the entire county acting as the board of health and it’s a haphazard way of meeting and establishing priorities which I think should be done on an ongoing basis,” he said. “In my view, we should be meeting more regularly as a public health board of directors and to that end, I think the restructuring of that board is necessary.”

Stark’s message to the next council is it’s “inappropriate” to continue dealing with public health policies in their current format with little time to discuss issues.

“If you want to be proactive in dealing with potential issues, like pandemics, you need to have policies in place and when you don’t even get an opportunity to discuss them, it seems to me that you need to make some structural changes to allow that to happen.”

Since raising the issue in September, Stark said he has received no response, which in itself is a problem.

“The whole issue of discussing where we are as policy developers has never been discussed and the latest incarnation of that goes back to 2017,” said Stark. “It seems to me, that we need to get more current information and more current input from our existing Lambton County Council because up until now, leading into this pandemic, we had not met other than once per year which met the statutory requirements of the act and that in my view is not sufficient.”

Municipal elections are scheduled to take place in October 2022.