During an AGM, met with “deep displeasure” by critics, HHHS acting CEO Veronica Nelson committed to town hall meetings, a continued quest for a CT scan machine, and better planning for the County’s future health care.

It was also revealed at the June 22 online meeting that the Corporation had a $3.3 million deficit at the end of the fiscal year ending March 31, partly due to paying agency nurses to work at Minden and Haliburton hospitals.

Near the end of the meeting, prior to a 20-minute question and answer period, Nelson said, “I recognize the last few weeks and months have been challenging for this community. I understand there are still many questions regarding the consolidation of the Minden emergency department.”

She went on to say her priority is hearing from the public, and working with the community and health service partners, to provide quality care to patients.

Nelson announced she’ll be hosting the first of four town halls June 29 in Minden. “This town hall will be an opportunity for us to share information, to hear from you, and discuss how we plan to continue providing high quality patient care for our community today and into the future,” she said via Zoom.

Head of the finance committee, Irene O’Dell, said, “HHHS finished a very challenging year of operations with a $4.2 million deficit compared to a minor surplus position for the prior year… with that, our net debt at the year-end was close is $3.3 M for the year ending March 31, 2023.”

Acting chief of staff, Dr. Norm Bottum, said he will be replaced by Dr. Anna Costia July 1. However, he said, “it’s our sincere hope the board is able to find a permanent chief of staff in the new year. With all the ups and downs over the last few years, it’s increasingly apparent that a permanent chief of staff will be an important role to help support the board during this time.”

He said challenges include nearly nonexistent home care services, pressures on long-term care, a loss of personal support workers and family physicians. He said many people in the community do not have a primary care provider “and there are no good prospects at present to help with this.

“Our system is stressed, and for many in our community, it is failing.”

He said the key is to attract staff who live, work and play in the region as outside agency employees are temporary and unsustainable. He hopes the situation can improve over the next two to three years. Dr. Bottum added that getting a CT scan machine will help.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation has committed to raising the money for a CT scanner if the Ministry of Health approves one. In her report, executive director Melanie Klodt Wong said, “it was yet another challenging year with the uncertainty of the pandemic impact, impactful world events and economic concerns, but despite all of this, the foundation was successful in raising more funds than expected through generous donations from individuals, foundations, corporations, community associations, and service clubs.” She said they were able to transfer $336,000 for capital equipment.

At the meeting, David O’Brien (chair), Diana McNiven, Irene Odell, Mark Bell, John Herald and Kurtis Bishop were elected as directors.

The Save the Minden ER group issued a press release condemning the AGM.

“Once again, HHHS has chosen to silence the community and evade their responsibility to the people of Minden,” spokesman Patrick Porzuczek said.

“The lack of transparency and meaningful community involvement demonstrated during the meeting continues to raise serious questions about the board’s commitment to serving the best interests of the entire community it claims to represent.”