The backlash from the Minden community continues to grow following the announcement by Haliburton Highlands Health Services last Thursday (April 20) that the Minden emergency department will be closed effective Friday, June 1st, with all staff to be transferred to the emergency department in Haliburton.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services currently operates two emergency departments that are open 24/7, one at 4575 Deep Bay Road in Minden and the other at 7199 Gelert Road in Haliburton, both with on-site heliports. Unlike the Haliburton location, which has 15 in-patient beds, the Minden location does not offer in-patient acute care services.
According to a statement from Haliburton Highlands Health Services president and CEO Carolyn Plummer and board chair David O’Brien, the decision to close the Minden emergency department was made in response to an ongoing shortage of nursing and medical staff.
“We know how much the community has appreciated having an emergency department in Minden,” reads the statement. “This decision has been made so (Haliburton Highlands Health Services) can continue to maintain high-quality health services for everyone in Haliburton County. It will help us run a more sustainable operation in the long-term, while supporting the well-being of our staff and physicians.”
“It also means we can do more to support our staff and physicians. The pressure to keep two emergency departments open, on top of the personal and professional sacrifices it has demanded, has been unbelievable. We have to support our staff, so they can keep protecting and caring for our patients.”
With the closure of the Minden emergency department, local residents would need to travel 25 kilometres northeast to Haliburton’s emergency department — a 25-minute drive.
“With the only in-patient beds in the county being located at the Haliburton site, this change means that anyone who comes to the emergency department and needs to be admitted to hospital can do so without having to be transferred, when beds are available.”
The two other nearest hospitals, both an hour’s drive from Minden, are South Muskoka Memorial Hospital Site in Bracebridge and Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services first announced in November 2021 that ongoing staffing shortages could result in a temporary reduction of services at one of its emergency departments. Additional statements were issued in April and December 2022 that staffing shortages could result in temporary closures, although such closures never took place.
In the December 2022 and January 2023 meetings of the Haliburton Highlands Health Services board, president and CEO Carolyn Plummer noted the organization was continuing to rely on agency staffing and contract staff to keep both emergency departments open. The minutes do not indicate whether a decision was under consideration to permanently close the Minden emergency department. Minutes for the March 2023 meeting of the board are not yet available.
Both Minden Hills mayor Bob Carter and deputy mayor Lisa Schell took to Facebook to say they were blindsided by the decision.
“There was absolutely no prior consultation with county or township staff or elected officials,” Carter writes on Facebook, noting he and other area mayors were only informed of the decision during a Zoom meeting the night before the announcement, despite meetings with Haliburton Highlands Health Services on December 19, January 19, and March 16.
“I was present at all of the meetings and although we discussed the fear of having to temporarily close either of the ERs due to lack of staff (which never occurred), there was never any discussion or warning that there was a plan afoot to permanently close the Minden Emergency Department … The process to make this decision was shrouded in secrecy.”
Please share this.
Minden Hills and Haliburton County were grievously harmed yesterday. The decision by HHHS to close…
Along with the decision to close Minden’s emergency department, Carter has also expressed concern about the timing of the closure.
“The decision is to close the Minden Emergency Department (the larger of the two in terms of volume) on June 1st,” he writes. “Most of us don’t need to be reminded that June is the start of the period when our population triples with cottagers and tourists.”
During the Haliburton Highlands Health Services annual general meeting last June, Plummer had reported that Minden’s emergency department had 12,768 visits for the past year, compared to 9,766 for Haliburton’s emergency department.
For her part, Minden Hills deputy mayor Lisa Schell calls the decision to close Minden’s emergency department “very shortsighted and difficult to understand.”
“Minden is listed as one of the fastest growing communities in the country,” Schell writes on Facebook. “This will cause health and economic harm and is absolutely shameful! The community has had ZERO opportunity to engage with the board before this decision was made! I am speechless.”
The decision to close the Minden emergency department, along with the resulting community outrage, has been covered by local media as well as by Global News and CTV News.
Although with local politicians, local residents are protesting the decision, including through a Facebook group called Save Minden Ontario Emergency Room with almost 3,000 members.
“Everyone needs to take part and flood media along with our provincial government,” reads the group’s description. “Let everyone know how Minden sticks together and this is not right. Especially for our future and our kids.”
In addition, Minden resident and former Minden firefighter Patrick Porzuczek has launched an online petition called Help Save the Minden Hills Emergency Department that has so far received more than 3,000 signatures.
“This closure will be a devastating loss to Minden Hills and all surrounding communities,” Porzuczek writes. “There have been no public meetings or an explanation as to how this closure will impact all of those who use the ER, including local fire departments and paramedic services.”