By Emily Stonehouse
MPP Laurie Scott recognizes that the decision to close the Minden emerg effective June 1 2023 is difficult news to process. “Minden is rightfully upset about it,” she told the Times, “it is a big thing.”
With a background in the medical field, Scott shared that while she feels the shock of the closure as it reverberated around the community, she also understands the reasoning behind the decision. “It really is a national and global shortage of healthcare providers,” she said.
She alluded to the fact that filling hospitals with appropriate staffing isn’t something that happens instantaneously, and while she believes the wheels are in motion to get staffing up to par, there are a series of hurdles in the way, such as training and housing. “We are trying to break down these barriers,” she told the Times, “but that’s not something that happens overnight.”
Scott shared that she is adamantly pushing for the opportunity for the Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) to acquire the CT scan machine for the Haliburton ER facility. She believes that by adding this new component to the hospital, it will create a more robust facility, which will continue to draw practicing medical staff to the region.
She also believes that by giving local pharmacists a deeper breadth of responsibilities, it could mitigate the wait times that many are concerned about with the amalgamation of the hospitals in the area. “We are building things on a bigger scale,” Scott said, “so now, pharmacists can treat the most common ailments.”
Scott added that while the decision is a tough one and she feels for the community of Minden, there are opportunities presented with the hand that’s been dealt. “It’s a tough decision that they had to make, but right now, they just can’t safely staff two emergency rooms.” She went on to say that she believes that now is a time to focus on the positive, and work to strengthen the Haliburton facility. “We’re all trying to work together as a region for healthcare.”
MP Jamie Schmale echoed many of Scott’s sentiments. “Obviously this was a very difficult decision for the board to make,” he told the Times, “but even harder for the community to grasp very shortly.”
Schmale noted that growing up in Bobcaygeon, he himself has utilized the services of the Minden emerg more than once. “I really do understand what this loss means to the community,” he said.
He shared that he understands the challenges the hospital has had with staffing, but believes this issue is tied to a series of larger local concerns; namely, housing. “Even if we can attract people to work here, they just can’t find a place to live.” He went on to say – based on his conversations with HHHS – that he understands this to be one of the largest factors that has led to the decision around the closure.
The other major issue he addressed are the requirements needed to practice medicine in the province. “There are over 20,000 foreign nurses in this country, waiting for answers, and this is a major opportunity that is being missed right now.”
Schmale believes that the college of physicians and nurses are currently not moving fast enough, and a system should be set up to provide these qualified medical professionals with the accreditations to practice in Ontario. “This is unacceptable,” he shared with the Times, “especially, because now we are closing emergency rooms because of staffing.”
He shared that until some of these “big picture” items are addressed, the future of healthcare in the community is uncertain, but he is particularly concerned about the closure of emerg on the cusp of a major tourism season. “Nobody feels good about this decision,” he said.