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Minden emergency department closure sparks controversy

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The closure of Minden's hospital emergency department has sparked controversy, with calls for an urgent public meeting to demand transparency on the decision-making process and an immediate reassessment of the closure's timeline.

A group called Save Minden ER said stakeholders from across Ontario want answers and are demanding a public meeting with the CEO and board chair of HHHS to address the closure.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) announced the closure on April 20, citing "serious staffing shortages" and the inability to retain health care workers.

In an interview with CTV News following the announcement, Minden's mayor noted the closure comes at the peak of tourist season when the population of the county triples.

Mayor Bob Carter added HHHS' decision came "out of the blue."

"There was never a mention that our emergency department would be closing," Carter said on April 21. "We have for some time at the county level tried to get ourselves onto the board of HHHS, and HHHS has resisted that, so this type of thing happens."

Last week, protesters gathered at Queen's Park to call on the province to intervene, but Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the HHHS board and leadership "made this decision carefully."

Since the announcement, residents have garnered thousands of signatures to petition for a one-year moratorium.

HHHS President and CEO Carolyn Plummer said the decision to close the emergency department permanently wasn't easy.

"We know that no one wanted to see a closure at any site, but we had to make this decision. It was an operational decision that had to be made in order to make sure we can continue to provide high-quality care," said Plummer.

HHHS said services would be consolidated to the Haliburton hospital, roughly 20 minutes from Minden.

Patrick Porzuczek, a community leader representing the Save the Minden ER group, suggested HHHS is "in breach of their commitment to advancing partnerships and working with local government in their decision to close the hospital" in a release issued Monday.

The emergency department is slated for closure on June 1.

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