Minden Hills council has thrown its support behind a proposal from the Kawartha North Family Health Team (KNFHT) to open an urgent care clinic at the Minden hospital.

A special council meeting was held June 5, where councillors discussed the potential operation with KNFHT executive director Marina Hodson. She said her organization currently operates clinics in Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon and feels an urgent care clinic would be the “best opportunity” to maintain health services in Minden after HHHS shuttered the community’s emergency department June 1.

“As a resident of Minden, I realize the limitations of our resources and how stretched health care providers are, especially during the busy summer season,” Hodson said. “We hope if this proposal is approved, we would be able to alleviate some of the burden.”

KNFHT wants quick decision

The application, which was submitted May 31, is for two nurse practitioners and two registered practical nurses. Hodson said they would treat patients with unexpected but non-life-threatening health concerns.

“Urgent care clinics are sort of the step between a walk-in clinic and an emergency department,” Hodson told The Highlander. “So, anybody that has minor sprains, bruises, requires stitches – those are the kinds of things we can handle.

“I also made it very clear in the proposal that I think this service needs to include some access to primary care.”

She noted public consultation would be required to figure out when, and for how long, the clinic should be open. Her initial application called for eight-hour openings, seven days per week.

“I don’t know when the highest need times are right now – I need to ask the community and local physicians to identify that. I’m assuming the need is there seven days a week, but if we find out people would prefer longer hours, but only five days a week, we will try to accommodate that,” Hodson said.

KNFHT will hold a question and answer session with the public June 9 at 1 p.m. at the community centre.

Not a replacement

Hodson said she’s open to partnering with other health care agencies and would relinquish the space in the event HHHS decides to revisit its decision to close the emerge.

“I’m not trying to replace the emergency department… I’m trying to create an opportunity to have something in place until such a time the emergency department, whether through HHHS or a new system, could return,” she said.

Coun. Pam Sayne thanked Hodson for “stepping up to the plate” during Minden’s time of need, though noted this clinic, if approved, shouldn’t let HHHS or the provincial government off the hook. She said she’ll be raising the issue at a Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA) meeting this week.

Mayor Bob Carter supported the proposal, saying any enhancement to health services in the Highlands was important.

“We’re in dire need of all sorts of health care,” Carter said.

Scott, HHHS respond

In a message posted to social media June 2, MPP Laurie Scott said she “sought out,” and has been working with, KNFHT to pursue funding for an urgent care clinic in Minden. Hodson said while Scott has expressed her support, she hasn’t been involved in the application.

“I think we need to be honest and say that politicians really don’t create these kinds of solutions. It’s health care providers and others who come up with ideas, create them and implement them,” Hodson said. “What the politicians are supposed to do is ensure there’s funding available, and [Scott] has been very supportive on that front.”

HHHS president and CEO, Carolyn Plummer, said the Minden site has been offered to KNFHT and that she was supportive of the proposal. She noted discussions are also ongoing with the County, through its paramedic services community paramedicine program, and Home and Community Support Services about additional services.

“There may be enough room to accommodate a few different health services at the site,” Plummer said.

Community response

Patrick Porzuczek, lead of the Save Minden ER group, said he had been working on a proposal for the Minden site before catching wind of KNFHT’s plans. After speaking with Hodson last week, he said he supports her idea “110 per cent.”

After hosting a candlelight vigil at the Minden hospital May 31, Porzuczek said his commitment to restoring emergency services at the site has never been stronger. 

“We are starting to create a united front and bringing some real noise to [premier] Doug Ford and [health minister] Sylvia Jones. We’re going to keep going until something changes,” he said.

Hodson said she didn’t know when she’d hear back from the ministry, noting they typically move “very, very slowly” with these types of applications.

I’m hopeful that, given the urgency, this will be expedited,” she said. “One of the benefits of using this space is it’s already set up to serve as an urgent care clinic. The turnaround time, should we receive approval, is very short. I already have staff who have expressed an interest in taking positions… so hopefully we can recruit quickly.”

She pegged the cost to run the clinic at around $500,000 annually.

A request for anticipated timelines on this proposal was not returned by Jones’ office by press time.