Meet the new CEO at the Windsor Essex County Health Unit

Doctor Ken Blanchette wants to start a new conversation about public health with the community.

Since he was hired earlier this month as the new CEO of the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, the Windsor native has hit the ground running.

Among his achievements, Blanchette kept up a practice in Michigan while living in Windsor. He served as the Chair of Health Sciences at St. Clair College, where he was also an Associate Vice-President of Academics. Hired earlier this month, he is the current Chair of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s Board of Directors.

In addition to the immediate concerns of COVID-19 and influenza, he counts the availability of affordable housing as a major challenge in public health.

“Those social determinants to health and that health equity piece,” said Blanchette. “Really start looking at how can we enhance the programs that we have, and create newer programs.”

He admits resources for some of those new programs may be scarce, noting the ongoing crisis in ambulance delays at area hospitals. It’s not just money that may be in short supply, but health professionals.

“My first priority is to get a full-time medical officer of health,” said Blanchette.

Doctor Shanker Nesathurai has been filling that role on an interim basis since the departure of Doctor Wajid Ahmed a year ago.

The health unit hopes to open a new safe injection site in Downtown Windsor, a facility Blanchette calls “pivotal” and needed as soon as possible.

He also said he would support a mental health emergency room in the core area, should it come to pass. Mayoral candidate Chris Holt has proposed it should he win Monday’s election. Holt is running against six other candidates for Mayor.

As the region heads into the flu season and possibly another wave of COVID-19, Blanchette admits uptake for the fourth vaccine was low in Windsor-Essex, and the messaging from public health officials may need tweaking.

“The messaging still has to be going out there, but I think it is important to change the content or the delivery,” he explained. “For us, it’s about keeping up with the vaccine schedule. It’s also about keeping the measures in place that have kept us safe throughout the pandemic.”

Blanchette replaces Eleanor Groh, who filled in during the interim after Nicole Dupuis resigned. Dupuis held the position for just over a year after Theresa Marentette retired in June 2021.

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