As of June 1, the Haliburton Hospital will have the only emergency department in Haliburton County.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) is moving all staff and services at the Minden Hospital’s Emergency Department to the Haliburton site.
Carolyn Plummer, President and CEO of HHHS, says Haliburton was chosen because of its more central position in the county, and because Minden lacks the impatient beds to support a larger emergency department. She says it would take “significant” renovation and investment, as well as a yearslong approval process to get the necessary beds.
“Even that wouldn’t necessarily give us the number of beds even to match what we currently have in Haliburton,” she says.
According to Plummer, it’s taken “extraordinary measures” to keep both departments open this far.
“We know that this is going to be a very difficult message for the Minden community in particular, and we’re very cognisant of that,” says Plummer. “This was a very tough decision, certainly wasn’t made lightly. We’ve been talking about this and looking at options for quite some time and this is the decision that we needed to make to continue to provide health services in the county.”
Signage will be updated at both the Minden site and along highways to reflect the change and some patients to the southwest might be taken to the Bracebridge or Lindsay hospitals instead.
Plummer says the main reason for the decision is a lack of health care workers, with HHHS needing more and more agency staff just to keep the doors open.
“Even with this change, we are going to need to continue focusing on hiring new staff,” says Plummer. “This is going to certainly help with our coverage, but it won’t solve everything.”
According to Plummer, they’re looking at hiring five to six full-time nurses to shore up reserves. Dr. Norm Bottum, HHHS’s acting Chief of Staff, says the consolidation should help with recruitment.
“Coming to a progressive medical community I think is really important, as opposed to one that is struggling to stay open,” says Dr. Bottum. “That can be pretty scary for a new, young doc thinking ‘well if the hospital’s going to close, why would I go to Haliburton, because the whole thing’s going to implode.’ This shows that commitment to the future.”
While there’s a number of things to finish before June 1—such as communication, staffing, scheduling, equipment, and parking changes— Plummer says they’ve done much of the preparation already.
“We’ve been facing near-closures many times over the past 18-plus months,” says Plummer. “With that, we’ve done an awful lot of work to prepare for even temporary closures of the emergency department. So lots of planning has already taken place to look at what would need to happen if one emerge was closed while the other stayed open.”
Plummer adds they’re looking into what services can be offered at the former emergency department in Minden, and the Haliburton site will be slightly renovated to accommodate the volume increase.