Dysart et al mayor Murray Fearrey has broken his silence on Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) decision to shutter the Minden emergency department effective June 1, calling it a “major loss” to the County.

The mayor told The Highlander he isn’t happy about the looming closure.

“I think they provided a good service [in Minden]. They may have made a decision based on what they think the facts are, but they haven’t communicated that very well,” Fearrey said. “I don’t think they had a longrange plan in place, they didn’t seem to know how they were going to transition so quickly.”

HHHS president and CEO Carolyn Plummer, and board chair David O’Brien, announced the decision April 20, saying that all emergency and in-patient services would be consolidated at the Haliburton hospital ahead of the busy summer tourism season.

Plummer said the move was related to the organization’s staffing crisis, with a shortage of nurses and physicians leading to more than 20 ‘close calls’ over the past year where one or both emergency departments faced temporary closures.

A more detailed plan was rolled out to the public May 16, highlighting enhancements that have been made, or are coming, to the Haliburton hospital. The number of treatment spaces in the emergency department is increasing from nine to 14 or 15, a new trauma bed is being added, while seating and space in the waiting area has been nearly doubled. An additional 15 parking spaces have been added outside.

While Plummer said there will be more staff working to cover the anticipated increased volume of patients, Fearrey has his reservations.

“If staffing was a concern before, I have to think that’s going to be a concern again… they’ve said they’re going to have extra nurses available and two doctors instead of one at the busy times – maybe it’ll all be OK, but I have some concerns,” Fearrey said.

“For a lot of people in our County, this is going to mean an increased travel time for emergency services. Nobody can think that’s a good thing.

“I’m very sympathetic to people in Minden and the surrounding area. If they don’t do something to take the pressure off, like opening a walk-in clinic, I think there’s going to be problems,” he added.