HHHS, Foundation ask County for $1M for CT units

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The County of Haliburton has put HHHS and its Foundation’s request for $1 million towards a CT scanner and CT mammography unit in the waiting room for now. However, the ask is expected to return to the next council meeting, scheduled for Oct. 25.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services interim president and CEO, Veronica Nelson, and Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation’s (HHHSF) executive director, Melanie Klodt Wong, made a delegation to an Oct. 11 County council meeting.

The province has approved both diagnostic tools but Klodt Wong told council the Foundation will need to raise more than $4 million. It now generates about $700,000-$800,000 for health care services anually, so this, “is a big undertaking.

“And one that has such a profound effect on the wellbeing of Highlanders. We also don’t want to take years and years to raise the funds. They (HHHS) need to raise these funds now and the plan is in motion.”

Nelson said they would like both diagnostic tools up and running for the summer of 2024. “There’s a desperate need for these services in our area, and we know that these services will keep health care local,” she said.

Nelson added the tools will meet doctor expectations and reduce pressure on County EMS, which is now taking patients out of town for CTs. She estimated it will save County EMS $200,000-a-year and more than 300 trips.

She added women are also travelling well over an hour each way for mammograms, or are not getting them due to distance.

Nelson said last week they were 75 to 80 per cent complete with design detail, which will go to the Ministry of Health this month, and then they can issue an request for proposals for construction.

The breakdown of costs is $2 million for diagnostic suite construction and design, $1 million for CT scanner equipment, $800,000 for CT mammography equipment, $250,000 for picture archiving upgrades and $250,000 for ultrasound replacement for a total of $4.3 million.

Funding request deferred

In making the $1M ask of the County, Klodt Wong said “this investment will not only enhance our health care infrastructure but also improve the overall quality of life for our communities. The one thing I hear over and over is we need this…”

Klodt Wong added it will have an economic impact since people will spend money in the County versus out of town while there for “nerve wracking” medical appointments, build the health care system after a tumultuous four years, and optimize conditions for health care professionals.

Thank you for considering this request. We are passionate about this project and truly believe it will have a positive impact on our community. Your support will make a significant difference and we’re hopeful for your favourable consideration,” Klodt Wong said. She added they want the funds in the next year, or may have to look into a loan.

Council weighs in

Coun. Murray Fearrey said when they funded the original hospitals in Haliburton and Minden, council of the day made a financial commitment. He asked CAO Mike Rutter how much one per cent of the tax base would be, and was told approximately $220,000. Fearrey said if it was two per cent, that would generate close to $500,000 ($440,000) and the County could find other savings in the budget to get HHHS and the Foundation its money.

Fearrey said it “wouldn’t raise the taxes any more than one per cent. And that’s how we did it before… that seems like not a big increase, and at the same time something that’s needed for all County taxpayers, and we’re going to save that on the ambulance on the other end.”

Rutter said he had discussed the issue with the director of corporate services and they could look to see if they have available reserve money to give upfront, then pay that money back into reserves over a period of five years.

Coun. Bob Carter wanted to defer the ask to budget time. “We can say it’s only one per cent or two per cent, but if that’s on top of five, or six, or seven already, then it gets to be a bit more difficult.”

Coun. Walt McKechnie was in favour of giving the money as soon as possible. “This is an important thing for every person who lives in Haliburton County… we spend so much money, this is really important to me and it’s going to save us money in the long run.” He wants the diagnostic tools up and running by May 2024.

Fearrey agreed he would like it done now.

Warden Liz Danielsen said she’d like to give Rutter and the director of corporate services time to look into funding options and impacts first. She asked for the referral to the next meeting.