Province must take blame

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The Haliburton Highlands Health Services board and management may be closing the Minden emergency June 1 – but the province’s hands are all over this decision despite their attempts to distance themselves by citing local autonomy.

It seems a bit hypocritical too, since in April 2022, the Ford government announced support for Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare’s plans for two new hospitals: one on existing land in Huntsville, and a new hospital at a new location in Bracebridge. The province has pledged financial support for the estimated $967 million builds over the next five to 10 years.

The rationale is population growth. We guess the province has not looked at 2021 Haliburton County Census data saying our County population has increased about 14 per cent, and Minden – where they are allowing an ER to close – by about that same percentage, 14.5.
It pays when your premier has a cottage in the Muskokas.

We can thank the provincial government for Bill 124, too. That is the law they passed in 2019 to cap wage increases for nurses and other public sector workers at one per cent a year for three years. The premier insists it’s now lapsed but the damage has been done. HHHS CEO Carolyn Plummer told County council this week, it will take years for health care staffing shortages to level out.

Nurses have left the industry in droves. They began to pack up prior to COVID-19 but the pandemic exacerbated an already-bad situation. Many have opted to relocate south of the border. Others have joined nursing agencies, which the Ontario government allows despite them wreaking havoc on the province’s healthcare system.

Using them has put HHHS severely in the red. It’s also impacted morale since lower-paid public healthcare nurses are working alongside agency nurses that are making a lot more money than them. They are, in some cases, coaching them through shifts, all the while knowing these outside nurses do not have skin in the game. They are here for the money, not the community.

According to ziprecrutier.com, the average annual pay for an agency RN in Ontario is $94,098 a year. The same source puts the rate of pay at $75,668 for RNs in Ontario.

Small wonder nurses do not want to work for HHHS. With the HHHS board and management saying staffing is the issue behind the Minden ER closure, let’s pass this buck onto Doug Ford, and let’s not forget about Laurie Scott.

And what about the cost of Health Force Ontario doctors? Surely it would be less costly to have a medical system that compensates ER and family doctors to practice in places such as Minden and Haliburton, rather than throwing money at highly-paid outsiders.

The list of provincial failures, sadly, goes on and on. Every year, HHHS finds itself in a deficit position because of the Ministry of Health’s tardiness in reimbursing monies owed.

Ford, Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Scott keep telling us about the millions, if not billions, they are throwing at health care. They are promising more nurses, for example. However, we are not seeing the results locally. Their failure to manage the province’s healthcare system has directly led to where we are today.