With last-ditch efforts now exhausted to postpone or reverse the Minden ER closure, the Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) consolidated County ER services in Haliburton June 1.

Dr. Norm Bottum, acting chief of staff for HHHS, said, “we are all deeply committed to delivering high quality and safe care to our community. And, as we have always done, we will do everything in our power to ensure that all those in need of emergency care in Haliburton County can get it.”

He reiterated the decision to close the Minden ER, and consolidate services in Haliburton as of today, “has been an incredibly difficult decision for our leadership that was made after many years of searching for solutions that would stabilize and protect emergency services in the County over the long term.”

Dr. Bottum added, “our goal is to ensure our community has a stable and safe emergency care system that you can all count on. This means having an emergency department that is open and able to provide quality services – each and every time someone shows up in an emergency department.

“The safety of our community has been impacted by the multiple, unpredictable, last-minute closures faced by HHHS over the past number of years. We are committed to reducing this risk by consolidating services in one location that can provide consistent service to our community and those seeking care.”

Bottum: reduced risk of closures

Dr. Bottum said they had been working closely with EMS, which had assured them the community is supported by access to 911. “Local paramedics are a critical part of our emergency care system. We encourage you to call 911 when you experience a medical emergency, knowing that care begins immediately, while you are en route to the HHHS emergency department.”

Revised ambulance coverage

The Haliburton County Paramedic Service has revealed its new boundaries as of now.

Director Tim Waite said that in the south, the borders will be Hwy. 35 at Monck Road (Norland), and County Road 121 at County Road 49 (the turn off to Bobcaygeon). Patients north of those boundaries will be transported to Haliburton, and patients south to Lindsay.

They are Hwy. 35 and Sherbourne Road to the north, and Black River Road to the west. Anyone south or east will be taken to Haliburton, and west to Bracebridge or Huntsville.

Waite said they had an extra ambulance from midnight May 31. “We’re going to keep it over at the Minden emergency department as often as we can, unless it gets assigned for a high priority call that it’s closest to, and it will be there until nine in the morning, with a second ambulance coming in at nine in the morning to go until nine at night on June 1. We have a similar thing on June 2, 3 and 4, a day shift of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Waite said.

When it comes to patient transfers, the chief said having a single site, “is probably going to be very advantageous for us because now the physicians are all at one site. They’re able to better prioritize which patient needs to go first, allowing us to keep more balanced 911 coverage.”

He said in the past, the two sites did not communicate. “Now, they will understand better there’s so many ambulances we have, and this is how many we can send out of the area at a time and they can better prioritize that.”

Injunction not possible

Jayson Schwarz of Schwarz Law Partners told The Highlander May 29 he’d been advised by litigator Mark Ross that no judge would grant an injunction of judicial review against the closure.

“First, the hospital is not a standalone hospital, Minden Hills and Haliburton are one hospital together, with two separate campuses. In other words, it is like a business doing an internal consolidation and there is no legislation or case law that would support an injunction.”

Secondly, he said with the decision, the Minden ER doctors have taken jobs elsewhere and it would be impossible to restaff for the summer.

“This means we are down, but not out. We certainly have nowhere to go for June 1, but we may have a case for relief to force the reopening for the fall,” he said.

As for money, he said they’d collected $85,000 and have kept records. He urged people to cancel e-transfers.

He added, “we now need to consider if we wish to push forward.” He reiterated there may be a case under the Canada Health Act; they could challenge HHHS; or simply refund donations.

“This is heart-breaking for all of us.”

Patrick Porzuczek, who led the citizens’ fight against the closure, said he isn’t convinced by Dr. Bottum or HHHS assurances.

“They are winging it and gambling with our lives. This isn’t Texas hold’em or a casino.

“What they did to the legacy and hard work of David Fiddler and his brother Doug and son Dennis (Minden ER doctors) is a huge kick. These doctors and the care they offered … the high regard for our community and the extra services they provided outside the scope of an ED will never be forgotten.”

He further pledged to fight on. “I’m not stopping after June 1. My words and message will become stronger.”

Minden Hills mayor Bob Carter said, “we have asked, we have pleaded, we have begged HHHS to reconsider what we think is a bad decision. But they have refused.

“The question becomes ‘what’s next?’ … our council needs to support the people to do all that we can to try to come to a better resolution.”

June doctor schedule almost filled

CEO Carolyn Plummer told The Highlander May 31, “as of June 1, many temporary changes have been made to spaces in the Haliburton ED to accommodate the additional patient volumes that are expected.”

She added, “this is providing the team with the time they need to finalize the spaces on a more permanent basis in coming weeks, which could not be done until they were able to start moving equipment out of the Minden ED.”

Spaces that didn’t require moving of equipment, such as parking lots, have been changed and signage will be erected by June 1.

In terms of staffing, she said the June physician schedule is now 98 per cent full and HHHS is confident the remaining two shifts will be filled.

“This puts us in a better position for June than in previous years, as it is not unusual for HHHS to have gaps in the following months’ schedule, even in summer. “ She said the July and August schedule is now being filled by local physicians first, before being posted to the Health Force One Emergency Department Locum Program for additional coverage.