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West Grey declares State of Emergency over hospital cuts


With just a few hours notice, dozens of Durham residents came out to the front steps of their hospital to share how its existence changed their lives.

“December 20th of last year. My Christmas would have been shattered. My girlfriend had a stroke. And if it weren't for the people in this hospital, my Christmas would be hell if it weren't for them. I'd probably either be burying my girlfriend or setting her up in a nursing home,” said Durham resident Don Gillam.

Just a few weeks after seeing their hospital's emergency room hours reduced indefinitely due to a lack of nurses in early March, the South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC), who manage Durham's hospital and three others in Grey-Bruce, announced they'd be moving all of Durham's 10 inpatient beds to hospitals in Walkerton and Kincardine by June 3.

The community fears a full closure of the facility is next.

“The writing's, in a sense, on the wall. With all the changes that they are doing and the fact that they don't wish to speak with us and give us accurate information or let us know how they came to making this decision,” said Dawn McNabb, a local resident and co-organizer of the Save Durham Hospital Committee.

Crowds gathered and held signs outside the Durham hospital on May 28, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

The community has held rallies and voiced their opposition around town with Save Durham Hospital signs. Tuesday, the Municipality took their fight to the next level, declaring a State of Emergency to essentially force the province to talk to them.

“Our biggest request when the question comes, ‘What can we do to help you?’ It's going to be you can, you know, supply the funding, supply the nursing, supplies, the infrastructure, the ability to keep our hospital, keep the ten beds open and to keep our emergency [department] open 24/7 as it's been,” said Municipality of West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles.

Eccles said no one from the Ministry of Health has reached out to inquire about West Grey’s State of Emergency yet, but that's why he did it. Essentially, declaring the State of Emergency forces someone from the government to reach out and have a conversation about what's happening at Durham's hospital. 

And what's happening has people like Joyce Macmillan outraged. Several years ago, staff at the Durham hospital saved her husband's life.

“It was it was a life saver for him. He wouldn't have been alive for another half hour if it hadn't been for this hospital,” said MacMillan.

Dozens gathered outside Durham's hospital for an impromptu rally to save the town’s only hospital on May 28, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“The community really cares. We care. And we've gone through this before and we were successful before, and we're hopefully be successful again. The other times it was government, but this time they're non-elected people. I don't think they have any idea about Durham,” said Durham resident Don Macintyre.

At Queen’s Park on May 16, Eccles, along with members of the Ontario Health Coalition, Ontario Nurses Association, and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), called for a moratorium on local hospital cuts and closures, as well as announcing pending legal action to stop cuts to the Durham hospital.

Officials with SBGHC said they have no intention of closing Durham's hospital, but that's not stopping West Grey from heading to court to try and stop the proposed cuts. A judicial review was filed on Friday.

“It is a judge that will take a look at all the evidence and find whether the board has acted appropriately, whether the actions taken by, you know, as far out as the Ministry of Health in the operation of the Durham site is correct and legal,” said Eccles.

Eccles said the fight to Save the Durham Hospital will not be an easy or short one, but West Grey council and the residents of Durham and area are ready to see it through, because healthcare is the most important thing any community can have.  


Statement from Ministry of Healty

“Minister Jones has been in touch with the local MPP and Mayor, with the ministry working closely with the hospital directly and with Ontario. We will continue to work with South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) leadership as they navigate their decision to focus the Durham hospital’s role delivering primary and urgent care. Our government will be there to support consistent and reliable care, through primary and urgent care, by ensuring it remains available in Durham and surrounding communities, especially as we head into summer months.

We are doing this through our historic expansion of interdisciplinary primary care teams, connecting nearly 9,000 people in the South-Bruce-Grey region to primary care, close to home, and through the Learn and Stay Grant which is growing our healthcare workforce, providing tuition to nurses at Georgian College in Owen Sound, in exchange for a period of study in our community. The funding for primary care has already flowed to organizations and has been annualized through our government’s 2024 budget, that also includes a half-a-billion investment to further expand primary care teams across the province.

The average patient visiting the Durham site were being treated for non-urgent, ailments such as earaches or pink eye, and was functioning as an access point for primary care. SBGHC’s decision to re-focus the function of their Durham site to primary care will ensure more consistent care in the community and is in response to their community’s needs, recognizing the importance or providing the right level of care where, and when, people need it. While the Ministry provides funding to hospitals, they are independent corporations who have the responsibility and authority over their day-to-day operations, including what services are delivered at what sites. All staff employed by the Durham site will continue to be employed there. Nearby hospitals in the region including Walkerton, Hanover and Kincardine remain open and will continue to delivery high-quality care in the region. Top Stories

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