Emergency departments at the Haliburton and Minden hospitals will remain open throughout the summer, according to HHHS CEO Carolyn Plummer, with the organization preparing to keep up with increased demand brought on by seasonal residents.

During her report to the board May 26, Plummer said it was “critical” that the local health service maintain its two emergency departments throughout the summer.

“We’ll continue to use nursing agency staff to support [our emergency departments]… We recognize with the increased volume that this community sees over the summer, that we see every summer, that there’s merit in keeping them open. It’s critical, in fact, for us to do that, given that we don’t have any other alternatives in place,” Plummer said.

It was first reported in November 2021 that the hospital was struggling to staff both emergency departments. In a new update, Plummer noted HHHS continues to experience a 40 per cent shortage in coverage for all emergency department and hospital nursing shifts, and a 25 per cent shortfall in coverage for emergency department physician shifts.

Positions are being filled temporarily by non-local nursing agency staff and HealthForce Ontario emergency department locum program physicians. While this is putting additional strain on the hospital’s finances, Plummer said it’s a tough pill the organization is having to swallow to maintain its current service levels.

Previously, Plummer told The Highlander that HHHS is relying on eight full-time nurse equivalents (40-hour weeks) staffed through third-party bureaus across its two hospitals. This is costing the organization around $20,000 more a month than if they had an additional eight full-time staffers of their own.

It was noted that the hospital may be forced into temporarily closing one of the departments in the event of a last-minute shift cancellation or emergency situation.

Back in black

Finance committee chair David O’Brien delivered some “much needed” good news to the board, saying the organization finished its 2021/22 fiscal year with a surplus.

“I usually come to this point in the agenda somewhat depressed because I’m reporting a deficit, but I have some exciting news for everyone today. We have finished our year with a $71,013 surplus,” O’Brien said. “I would be remiss to say that we’re not out of the woods yet, but this is certainly encouraging.”

This marks the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that HHHS has ended its fiscal year in a positive financial position.

Golf classic returns

Golf enthusiasts will have the opportunity to hit the links for a good cause once again this summer after the HHHS foundation announced the return of the Matt Duchene Charity Golf Classic.

The event will take place July 22 at the Blairhampton Golf Club.

“We’re very pleased that our Matt Duchene classic will be returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID… Things will be a little bit different for us in terms of the day of the week and the location, but we’re so excited to bring this popular event back to the community,” said HHHS Foundation executive director Lisa Tompkins.

Tompkins noted the foundation was in the process of finalizing its funding commitments for the 2022/23 fiscal year. The organization has already given the green light to purchasing new IV pumps for both hospitals’ acute care and emergency departments.

The foundation donated just over $413,000 to fund equipment and program upgrades during the previous fiscal year.