Urgent care clinic moving to full-time hours

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Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) acting CEO Veronica Nelson said the Kawartha North Family Health Team’s urgent care clinic in Minden will be moving to full-time hours effective Sept. 30.

During HHHS’ third town hall meeting, at the Stanhope Firefighters Hall in Algonquin Highlands Aug. 22, Nelson said the clinic will operate seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Until then, the plan remains to open on weekends and long weekends.

Nelson said the clinic had been averaging 20 patients a day since opening, with 25 per cent of people being seen having a primary care provider. She said the top three reasons people are going in are injuries (55 visits), ear, nose and throat (53), and other (53).

Nelson added that she is in the process of establishing a Minden community nursing clinic in conjunction with SE Health and Paramed. It would do things such as wound care, IV therapy and catheter care. Nelson said her goal is to have it open seven days a week, 11 hours a day, dependent on referrals. She would like it to operate next to the urgent care clinic.

During the one-hour town hall, Nelson added HHHS had successfully recruited a new human resources manager, with Peter Kronenberg joining the services, while new chief nursing executive and vice president Jennifer Burns-West is also poised to join the organization. She added that since June 1, HHHS has added nine nursing staff, 14 personal support or home support workers and seven people in support and administration.

“So, we’re moving in the right direction,” she said.

Nelson also discussed their efforts to reduce the use of agency nurses, which contributed to a blown-out health care budget. She said the goal is to get it down to 25 per cent by October. She added they “weren’t’ out of the woods yet” as they continue to need some nursing agency support as they recruit staff.

As for the recently approved CT scan machine and CT mammography unit, Nelson said they’d met with Dysart’s chief building official, Karl Korpela, and are now working on architectural and engineering drawings with the intent of putting the project out to tender for construction. They hope to have both units online next spring. They still need to raise funds to pay for the machines.

During a question-and-answer session, Nelson was asked about wait times at Haliburton’s consolidated ER site and said they had gone up in July.

Terry Moore said he’s worked on the labour side of health care for 35 years and asked about the ratio of full-time to part-time staff at HHHS. He said he believed the industry was now 70 per cent part-time, exacerbated by the pandemic. “I think the pandemic heightened a problem that was already there and festering for a long time,” he said.

Nelson did not have an immediate percentage answer but said the organization is trying to strike a balance.

Carolynn Coburn queried the hospital board. She said when it began, it comprised locals and now, she does not recognize many of the board members. She believes what’s needed are “full-time residents, really embedded in the community.” She also called for board members’ biographies to be publicly posted.

Board vice-chair Irene Odell said all but two board members are full-time residents and HHHS’ communications person, Lauren Ernst, said bios will soon be posted on the HHHS website.

One audience member asked why board chair David O’Brien was not at the meeting, and Odell said he had a previous, out of town, engagement. Odell reiterated the decision to close the Minder ER was made by the entire board. She added the executive and board are now working in a “more stabilized and different environment” as opposed to scrambling to avoid ER closures.

The next town hall is Aug. 26 at the Lloyd Watson Memorial Community Centre in Wilberforce from 10-11 a.m.