Haliburton County council has approved a $1-million contribution towards a CT scanner at the Haliburton Hospital, with some conditions.
The county will set aside $200,000 in the budget each year until 2028 to fund the proposal, with $600,000 coming from reserves. Outgoing CAO Michael Rutter told council that would mean a roughly one per cent tax rate increase for residents.
In exchange for the funding, Haliburton Highlands Health Services must give councillors two seats on its board of directors. The provision was suggested by Minden Hills councillor Bob Carter, who was the only councillor to vote against the motion, on the grounds that HHHS was approved for the scanner in July and the request could have gone to standard budget deliberations.
“HHHS has not been very transparent with us over the last little while. As a matter of fact, they’ve been quite the opposite,” said Carter. “We don’t know the basis of their decisions. We don’t know why they’re doing things in such a way. So I think to get my support [and council’s], we should demand that we get two seats on the board.”
Carter also questioned whether this is the best thing to spend healthcare dollars on, as the money could be put towards facilities such as the shuttered emergency department in Minden.
“We had a fully staffed emergency department that HHHS closed, throwing away emergency doctors who had been faithfully staffing the emergency department for decades,” said Minden councillor Lisa Schell. “And now they’re asking for $1-million for a CT scanner to attract emergency doctors.”
Highlands East councillor Cecil Ryall pointed out that it would be more expensive in the long run to fund and staff an additional ambulance to take people for scans at an out of area hospital. ”I’m not going to debate the overall public opinion of it, I’m looking purely at the dollars of it, and I would find it very difficult not to support this,” said Ryall.
Dysart et al councillor Murray Fearrey noted the $4-million fundraising campaign is not just for the CT scanner, but for several other pieces of imaging equipment, including mammography. He added the one per cent tax increase is “almost painless” for those items.
“I know they haven’t been transparent, but you know what? We can’t keep going back finding fault, we’ve got to move forward here,” said Fearrey. “We’ve got a lot on our plate, but [for] healthcare, the only thing that we’re contributing is trying to bring doctors in here, and equipment.”
Several councillors also voiced objections around the transparency and lack of public consultations, but ultimately voted seven to one to move forward with the funding. The county will provide HHHS with half the money in January 2024, and the other half in January 2025.