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HHHS firm on June 1 closure of Minden emergency department

Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) will not bump back the closure of the Minden emergency department.

That after a request from Minden Hills Council to HHHS board chair David O’Brien and CEO Carolyn Plummer Thursday morning, to postpone the June 1 date to November or later and get through the busy summer season.

O’Brien told council that with staffing shortages in the healthcare sector, staff at the Minden and Haliburton hospitals have had to make “incredible personal and professional sacrifices” over the past 18 months to keep the two sites open.

“It got to the point that we can’t continue to do that. We’re going to lose people more than we’ve already lost. We’re going to lose our hospital if we continue to do this. I’m not talking about closing Minden emergency, I’m talking about the broader HHHS hospital,” said O’Brien. “The staff came to us and said ‘look, you’ve got to do something because we can’t keep going on like this’.”

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According to Plummer, the agency had more than 20 official near-misses last summer that would have seen one or both emergency departments close with less than two hours of notice. She added that doesn’t include instances where the Ministry of Health did not need to be notified, with nurse sick calls making that an almost weekly occurrence.

She said if the agency continues as it does past June 1, those short-notice closures are almost guaranteed to happen this summer.

“We were able to make it through last summer but just barely, and it was not going to be feasible for this summer,” said Plummer. “This was a very, very difficult decision. And we know it’s been particularly difficult for the Minden community, but it was one that we had to make, to make sure that we still had health services across the county as a whole going into the summertime.”

“We will continue to communicate. We will continue to interact and we will continue to give you as much help with this as we possibly can. None of us wanted to make this decision. None of us,” said O’Brien. “I wish I could say ‘everything is going to be fine, don’t worry,’ but I can’t do that. But we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Minden Hills Mayor Bob Carter noted that practically half of the Minden community has, over two days, signed a physical petition to stop or postpone the closure. He says that petition will go to the provincial legislature, and both elected officials and residents will continue to fight for this matter.

“We, like you, are going to leave no stone unturned to come up with the best solution,” said Carter. “We do not believe that what has been proposed is the best solution at this point.”

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