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Grey County will not join legal action against Durham hospital

County won't join legal challenge of Durham hospital bed transfer, but is demanding an immediate meeting with Health Minister Sylvia Jones on the issue
Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones speaks at the grand opening of the new Markdale Hospital.

Grey County will not be joining a legal action being launched by West Grey to stop the removal of inpatient beds from the hospital in Durham.

At its meeting on May 23, county council voted against joining a legal action launched by West Grey to challenge the decision by South Bruce Grey Health Services to move 10 beds from Durham hospital to other facilities in Walkerton and Kincardine.

In a letter to county council, West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles encouraged the county to join the legal process.

“West Grey has authorized the municipality to make an application to the court challenging this decision. I anticipate the application will be commenced no later than Friday, May 24, 2024,” Eccles stated in the letter. “If the County of Grey intends to make a similar application, I would be pleased to discuss the possibility of a joint application.”

West Grey Deputy Mayor Tom Hutchinson lifted the letter from the consent agenda for consideration by council and moved a resolution to support and participate in the legal challenge.

Eccles was not present at the meeting as he was attending a news conference about Durham hospital at Queen’s Park with the Ontario Health Coalition.

“We think the impact goes beyond West Grey and Durham into the rest of the county,” said Hutchinson.

The resolution resulted in council proceeding into a closed session to receive legal advice on the matter. After a brief time spent in-camera, council emerged and unanimously turned down the resolution to join the West Grey legal challenge.

Instead, county council passed a resolution moved by Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy asking that Warden Brian Milne continue seeking an immediate meeting with Minister of Health Sylvia Jones on the Durham hospital issue.

“The one policy fits all - or the one policy fits none - doesn’t work for rural Ontario,” said Boddy. “Emergency services are closing in a rural setting. This isn’t working for us in Grey County. This is a big problem. We can’t wait.”

At its previous meeting, council had passed a meeting asking for a meeting with Jones. Milne said the second resolution would add “urgency” to the request.

“While the ministry was not part of the decision, the ministry is very much part of the solution,” said Milne.

Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen said the message to the province must be clear and unequivocal.

“We’re not taking no for an answer,” said McQueen.

The Durham hospital crisis erupted in April when the hospital corporation announced that by June 3 the facility’s inpatient beds would be transferred to hospitals in Kincardine and Walkerton. The corporation cited an ongoing nursing shortage as the reason for the move and said the Durham emergency department would remain open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

After the announcement, Milne said the decision “blindsided” the county, which operates a long-term care home and ambulance base in Durham. The county subsequently passed a resolution requesting a meeting with Jones on the issue.


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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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