By Sue Tiffin
Responding to growing community concern that Minden hospital has been given a closure date, Haliburton Highlands Health Services CAO and president Carolyn Plummer told the Times, “No closure or service reduction decisions have been made,” before issuing a press release to address the escalating concern.
“In response to concerns heard through the community, HHHS shared today that no decision has been made about which emergency department might need to close or reduce services as a result of staffing shortages,” said an April 29 press release from HHHS. “As well, no target date has been set for an emergency department closure or service reduction.”
HHHS has continued to face nursing and physician staff shortages in the Haliburton emergency department and has been relying on agency nursing staff and the Health Force Ontario and ED Locum program that provides support for hospitals across the province facing physician shortages to fill gaps.
“Since first announcing the impact of staffing shortages on HHHS in November 2021, the organization has been hard at work to keep both emergency departments open, while exploring options and alternatives,” reads the press release. Those options and alternatives include accessing provincial programs to fund recruitment of internationally-educated nurses and nursing students, and working with Ontario Health to identify other recruitment strategies; engaging in virtual career fairs to attract nursing students and new graduates; enhancing the organization’s social media presence; hiring a dedicated recruiter to work on other recruitment activities; meeting with local municipal leaders to identify possible collaborations and ways to support recruitment and current staff/physician retention; collaborating with the Haliburton County physician recruitment co-ordinator and focusing on retention by supporting education opportunities for current staff.
“The fact that both emergency departments have remained open so far is a testament to the incredible dedication and commitment shown by our local teams, as well as the staffing support we have received from agency nursing staff and HealthForce Ontario emergency department locum program physicians,” said Plummer. “Though this is a very challenging situation to manage, HHHS will remain focused on our mandate of delivering essential, high-quality health services to the residents, cottagers, and visitors of Haliburton County and the surrounding area.”
Plummer said HHHS will continue to communicate with the community directly about the staffing situation in the emergency departments.
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Haliburton Hospital
On April 28, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District health unit declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the in-patient department of the Haliburton Hospital, where three asymptomatic confirmed patient cases were identified.
“As a result of the outbreak, all in-patient department patients have been isolated,” reads a press release from HHHS. “The department is also now closed to any further admissions, and visitors are limited to only those receiving end-of-life care. Volunteers are restricted from entering the in-patient department at this time.”
While mandatory masking, vaccination, regular surveillance testing and active screening has been maintained in all patient care areas, enhanced cleaning and staff monitoring for symptoms will now be conducted as well.
“We know that COVID-19 is still circulating in our community,” said Plummer. “HHHS will continue to put the health and safety of our patients, residents, and staff first, through our rigorous infection prevention and control measures.”
Services in the emergency department remain unaffected by this outbreak and community members in need of emergency care should not hesitate to seek assistance.
HHHS has also been in contact with neighbouring partner hospitals, including Peterborough Regional Health Centre and Ross Memorial Hospital, in case an admission is needed to an in-patient department.