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Sarsfield ‘humbled’ by health unit review

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After listening to a presentation of an operational review of the Northwestern Health Unit all day Wednesday, its CEO and medical officer said he feels humbled and will look to change.

“It was a long and humbling meeting, and the consensus seems to be we are damned good but not perfect,” Dr. Pete Sarsfield said Thursday morning.

The operational review was done at the request of several Northwestern Ontario municipal governments which were upset by increasing per capita levies set out by the health unit.

The Blackwell Group of Calgary, which did the review, gave its preliminary report to the health unit’s board and some staff from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Kenora.

It will present its written report later this month.

“It is going to be growing opportunity for the health unit, for the board, and for me,” noted Dr. Sarsfield, who at times has been singled out by Fort Frances council during disputes over the per capita levy.

Last fall, debate was heated to the point where Dr. Sarsfield threatened to bring council to court while it, in turn, refused to pay the town’s levy.

Now, Dr. Sarsfield admitted he will have to change his tune personally somewhat.

“It was absolutely humbling and absolutely good. I definitely have areas to improve,” he said. “I need to tone down and smarten up both.

“I’ve heard this before . . . maybe I’ll listen this time,” he added.

The Blackwell Group’s written report is expected to be presented to the health unit board Nov. 14, and then publicly revealed for the first time here Nov. 27.

In the meantime, board members are keeping the contents to themselves.

“I don’t have any comment at all on this,” noted board vice-chair Derek Mills. “There’s a formal process here and we received a draft report of the review which will go to the board Nov. 14.”

“What they’re thinking of recommending are mostly changes in the process, the way we do things,” said Dr. Sarsfield.

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