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Statement from Haldimand County regarding potential merger of Haldimand-Norfolk & Brant County Health Units

Statement from Haldimand County regarding potential merger of Haldimand-Norfolk & Brant County Health Units

Background:

In 2023, the Ministry of Health announced plans to strengthen the public health sector by offering one-time funding, resources and supports to local public health agencies that decide to voluntarily merge by January 1, 2025. Their goal is to better support communities through optimization of resources and better coordination of services.

The decisions of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) and Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) Boards of Health to pursue a potential merger were released publicly on April 26, 2024.

While a merger is voluntary at this point, municipalities have received clear indication that regionalization of Public Health Departments is a priority of this provincial government. If voluntary mergers are not considered, the potential for a merger to be imposed, and without the current funding, is a distinct possibility. This would bring Haldimand County back to the drawing board in terms of a revised governance model with direct Haldimand representation.

The decisions of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) and Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) Boards of Health to pursue a merger present a number of opportunities and benefits for Haldimand County and its residents.

These include:

  • An enhanced ability to build upon and strengthen existing public health services with a focus on addressing health inequities;
  • An opportunity for Haldimand to have direct representation on a new board of health;
  • An opportunity to access dedicated Ministry funding through the transition, putting money directly back into local public health unit services and enhancing public health capacity;
  • Responding to the request of Ministry to expand jurisdiction, in a responsible, manageable way; building on aligned services and existing synergies between Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant.

A number of options were considered beyond merging with Brant. A Joint Board Merger Working Group, including representatives from each health unit, worked with a consultant who facilitated a Feasibility Assessment Report to present various options and inform the Boards’ decision making.

Alternative options for Haldimand – including whether or not it was feasible to break apart from the existing Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health and explore mergers with other neighbouring municipalities was considered – however, was not pursued for a variety of reasons, including lack of interest from these agencies.

Next steps are to submit a business case to the Province in consideration of this merger. No decision is final until authorized by the Ministry of Health. Council and the community will be kept informed about any changes as updates become available.

Quote from Mayor Shelley Ann Bentley:

“Access to high quality public health services is paramount to the overall well-being of our community and the opportunity to strengthen the critical services our residents depend on is very much welcomed. The potential for a merger between Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant speaks to the existing relationships between all agencies and common interest in providing responsive, accessible services that meet community needs. As both agencies work through next steps, Haldimand Council will continue to advocate for an independent voice within the governance model of a merged Board of Health to ensure the interests of Haldimand residents are heard and considered.” – Haldimand County Mayor Shelley Ann Bentley

 

Haldimand County logo. A yellow sun rising or setting atop green and blue waves. Haldimand County in black lettering below.

Ditch Burning

HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON – Over the last week, Haldimand County firefighters have responded to numerous fires resulting from the burning of grass and brush in roadside ditches. As the spring season unfolds and agricultural activities intensify, the Haldimand County Fire Department is highlighting the critical issue of fire spread dangers associated with burning ditches. While historically used for land clearing and waste disposal, this practice poses significant risks to communities, ecosystems, and property.

Burning ditches can quickly escalate into uncontrolled fires, especially under unfavourable weather conditions such as dry spells or high winds. Once ignited, flames can rapidly spread to surrounding vegetation, crops, and structures, endangering lives and property.

The indiscriminate burning of ditches poses direct threats to nearby communities, particularly those situated in rural or semi-urban areas. Embers carried by wind can travel significant distances, igniting fires in residential areas and causing property damage or destruction. Smoke from burning ditches can envelop neighbourhoods, posing respiratory hazards and reducing air quality, especially for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

The Haldimand County Fire Department urges property owners to prioritize fire safety and adopt alternative land management practices to mitigate fire risks associated with burning ditches. The burning of brush or grass within ditches is not permitted within Haldimand County. In the event of a fire response resulting from the intentional burning of grass or brush, the property owner is subject to fines and/or cost recovery fees under the Open Air Burning Bylaw.

For more information, please visit HaldimandCounty.ca or contact the Fire Department at 905-318-5932 ext. 6230, or email emergencyservices@haldimandcounty.on.ca

Burn Permits

HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON – Haldimand County Emergency Services are reminding the public that there are rules and permits for open air burning. This is both for your safety and the safety of our community. If you are planning any burning activities on your property, it is crucial to approach them with care and diligence. Here is a concise rundown to ensure safe and lawful burning..

Secure a Permit: Prior to igniting any fires, ensure you have the necessary permit. These permits serve as a regulatory measure to monitor burning activities and uphold safety standards. To obtain a permit, please visit the Haldimand County website or attend in person at the Haldimand County Administrative Building, located at 53 Thorburn St South, Cayuga.

Large Burn Piles: For those conducting a “non-recreational” burn, exercise heightened caution. These types of burns can swiftly escalate if not managed effectively. The approved size of a “non-recreational” burn is a maximum of 6m x 6m. Separating large piles into smaller, more manageable piles, and burning one at a time is best practice. Ensure adequate clearance of anything combustible around the burn area. In addition, monitor winds and weather conditions, and have appropriate fire suppression equipment readily available. Never leave the burn unattended.

Property Owners Responsibility: In the event that a fire spirals out of control or a complaint is made which requires the fire department to respond, property owners may be held financially accountable for all associated costs. Once the burn is extinguished, by whatever means, the property owner must ensure the burn area has been returned to its natural, clean condition. Adhering to safe burning practices not only mitigates risks, but also averts potential financial liabilities.

Community Responsibility: Let’s not overlook the collective responsibility we share as members of a community. Practicing safe burning is not just about safeguarding individual properties; it is about fostering a culture of collective safety and responsibility within our community.

To learn more about the Haldimand County Open Air Fire Bylaw, please visit: https://www.haldimandcounty.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Open-Air-Fire-Burning-By-law-1662-16.pdf

Flood Watch

HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON – The Long Point Region Conservation Authority has issued a Flood Watch message for all areas within its watershed.

A significant amount of precipitation has fallen in the Long Point Region watershed over the last 24 hours. The Long Point Region received between 25 and 30 mm of precipitation across the watershed. This precipitation combined with the melting snowpack are creating runoff, causing watercourses to exceed their banks creating localized flooding in floodplains, low-lying areas, and regions with poor drainage.

People are warned to stay away from ditches, water bodies, streams, rivers, and ponds as the combination of slippery banks and cold, fast-flowing water is dangerous. Landowners are also advised to make sure dams, culverts, and catch basins are free from debris and ice and functioning properly, if the work can be done safely.

Haldimand County Emergency Services will be actively monitoring conditions throughout the weekend. Residents should pay close attention to changing weather conditions and watch for updates flood messages. A flood guide for lakeshore property owners and other emergency preparedness resources can be found at HaldimandCounty.ca/floods.

This message will be in effect until 12:00 pm Monday, January 29, 2024.

Flood Warning

FLOOD WARNING

HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON – The Long Point Conservation Authority has issued a Flood Warning message.

An intense low-pressure system is forecast to cross over the lower Great Lakes Region between Friday and Saturday. As a result, Lake Erie will see sustained winds from the southwest ranging from 50 to 60 km/hr and gusts of 70 km/hr Saturday.

With the forecasted winds, flooding is expected to impact low lying areas along the Lake Erie shoreline and lower reaches of some tributaries. Wave uprush and increased shoreline erosion can be expected from this event.

Haldimand County residents and businesses within LPRCA’s watershed should be aware flooding will reach Lake Erie Flood Stage 2. The public is advised to familiarize themselves with the flood warning zone mapping on the Haldimand County website: Lake Erie Flood Zones in Haldimand County (arcgis.com)

The public is asked to stay away from the Lake Erie shoreline due to strong wave action and elevated water levels, and to follow the direction of local flood coordinators and emergency officials. Parents are reminded to keep children and pets away from these areas.

Haldimand County Emergency Services will be actively monitoring conditions throughout the weekend. Residents should pay close attention to changing weather conditions and watch for updates flood messages. A flood guide for lakeshore property owners and other emergency preparedness resources can be found at HaldimandCounty.ca/floods.

This message will be in effect until 8:00 pm Sunday, January 14, 2024.

Flood Watch

HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON – The Grand River Conservation Authority has issued a Flood Watch message.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) storm surge model forecast for the eastern end of Lake Erie is indicating a rise in lake levels just above the threshold of Lake Erie Flood Zone 1. The passage of a strong low pressure system is expected to bring high winds to Lake Erie on Saturday.

The lower Great Lakes are expected to see sustained winds of 45 to 60 km/hr from the south and southwest with gusts up to 90 km/hr on Saturday. The peak elevation of the surge is forecast to occur Saturday evening but lake levels are expected to be high through most of the day.

The public is asked to stay away from the Lake Erie shoreline due to strong wave action and elevated water levels, and to follow the direction of local flood coordinators and emergency officials. Parents are reminded to keep children and pets away from these areas.

Haldimand County Emergency Services will be actively monitoring conditions throughout the weekend. Residents should pay close attention to changing weather conditions and watch for updates flood messages. A flood guide for lakeshore property owners and other emergency preparedness resources can be found at HaldimandCounty.ca/floods.

This message will be in effect until 12:00 pm Sunday, January 14, 2024.

Emergency Management Exercise

HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON – On October 12th, 2023 Haldimand County Emergency Services partnered with Genesee & Wyoming Inc. to conduct a full-scale tactical exercise involving the railway. Fire, Paramedics, Ontario Provincial Police, Genesee & Wyoming Inc., and Woodstock Police joined together to learn, train, and practice a simulated event.

This year’s Emergency Management exercise was in the Jarvis area and simulated a truck versus train collision, in which one train car was leaking and another was on fire. The purpose of the yearly exercise is ensure compliance with policies and procedures, test inter-agency communication, as well as ensure both first responder and public safety.

We are pleased to advise that this year’s exercise was a great success. Please see the attached photos.

 

CO Awareness Week

HALDIMAND COUNTY, ON – Join us from November 1-7 in celebrating CO Awareness Week! Haldimand County’s Emergency Services members will be spreading awareness regarding Carbon Monoxide safety, and our fire fighters will be our boots on the ground handing out information to local residents. Don’t be shy and say hi! This will be prime time to ask questions, get advice, and meet your friendly neighbourhood fire fighters!

The Fire Department has a limited supply of Carbon Monoxide alarms that will be distributed to local residents in need, free of charge. To receive an alarm, please contact the Fire Department at (905) 318-5932 ext. 6230 or email emergencyservices@haldimandcounty.on.ca. Complimentary CO alarms are available on a first come, first served basis.

Carbon Monoxide is known as the “Silent Killer”. It is colourless, odourless, and tasteless. It can be present in any home with a fuel fired appliance. As it is undetectable by human senses, the only way to ensure the safety of you and your family is to have working CO alarms! You can also have all fuel fired appliances inspected regularly by a certified technician and, of course, DO NOT leave vehicles or generators running indoors.

  • Ontario law requires that a working carbon monoxide alarm be installed adjacent to each sleeping area in homes that have a fuel-burning (i.e. wood, oil, natural gas, propane) appliance, fireplace or an attached garage.
  • In a condo or apartment building with a service room, carbon monoxide alarms must be installed in the service room and adjacent to each sleeping area of all condo/apartment units above, below and beside the service room.
  • In a condo or apartment building with a garage, carbon monoxide alarms must be installed adjacent to each sleeping area of all condo/apartment units above, below and beside the garage.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms in rental units must be tested by the landlord annually and after every change in tenancy.
  • In Ontario, more than 65 per cent of injuries and deaths from carbon monoxide occur in the home.
  • A Canadian certification mark ensures that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms meet the appropriate Canadian standard; only alarms with the Canadian certification mark should be purchased and installed.

2023/2024 Respiratory Illness Season

The 2023/2024 Respiratory Illness Season is among us. While some people are suffering from seasonal allergies, others are suffering from colds and flus. The province, Haldimand County, and health officials would like to remind you that flu shots and both Covid vaccines and Covid boosters are available.

The overall risk posed by seasonal viruses this fall/winter is expected to continue to be atypical compared to pre-pandemic years based on observations from the southern hemisphere in summer 2023. We anticipate an early start to the influenza season, co-circulation of influenza A and B, and low-to-moderate Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) levels in most regions, including increased respiratory illness burden among pediatric populations. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It can be serious, and both infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe RSV that requires hospitalization.

Please utilize Health811 for non-urgent health inquiries and questions. Telehealth, walk-in clinics, virtual doctor appointments, and other resources are available for non-urgent matters, saving emergency rooms for urgent heath matters. Haldimand and Norfolk Health and Social Services are also offering vaccinations both by appointment and walk-in, as are some pharmacies.

Keep yourself and your loved ones safe, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and stay home if you are not feeling well.

As Fire Prevention Week approaches, Haldimand County Fire Department reminds residents: “Cooking safety starts with YOU. Pay attention to fire prevention.”

Fire Prevention Week runs from October 8-14 this year, and Haldimand County Fire Department is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) to promote this year’s theme, “Cooking safety starts with YOU. Pay attention to fire preventionTM.”

This year’s theme and awareness campaign works to educate everyone about simple but important actions they can take when cooking to mitigate the risk of kitchen fires.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in Canada. “Year after year, cooking remains the leading cause of home fires,” said Fire Chief Jason Gallagher. “This tells us that there is still much work to do when it comes to educating the public about ways to stay safe when cooking.”

Haldimand County Fire Department offers these key safety tips to help reduce the risk of a cooking fire.

  1. Ensure your home has functioning smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are installed to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  2. Watch what you heat. Always keep a close eye on what you are cooking, and never leave anything unattended. Set a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  3. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Always keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner.
  4. Have a “kid- and pet-free zone” of at least 1m around the stove or grill and anywhere else hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
  5. When it comes to cooking with oil, shortening, or other fats, it’s crucial to be extra vigilant. One small mistake, such as overheating the oil or leaving a pot unattended, can quickly escalate into a dangerous kitchen fire. To prevent these kinds of fires, it’s important to keep pots and pans securely lidded to avoid splashing oil and never to leave cooking equipment unattended.
  6. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  7. Homeowners should be mindful of how they store their kitchen tools and utensils. Make sure that flammable materials, such as paper towels or dish towels, are stored away from the stovetop, and that utensils and tools are kept in a safe and secure location.

To find out more about fire prevention programs and activities in Haldimand, please contact the Haldimand County Fire Department at (905) 318-5932 ext. 6230 . For more general information about Fire Prevention Week and cooking safety, visit www.fpw.org. For fire safety fun for kids, visit sparky.org.