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Minden, Ont. emergency department officially closes

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In what's usually a bright and bustling month in the small, rural town of Minden, Ont., June 1 has instead brought sadness for its residents and cottagers.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) officially closed the town's emergency department, removing its hospital and emergency signage Thursday morning.

Emergency services have been redirected to Haliburton's hospital for what HHHS said is due to ongoing staffing shortages.

"It's like a day after a funeral, after a wake, the reality is coming in, the emotions are high," said Patrick Porzuczek, the leader of the 'Save Minden ER' Coalition. "We had our candlelight vigil in front of the hospital last night, attended by residents and hospital workers alike, we shared positive stories of the year instead of negative ones, and we all said one day, we will see each other again."

Porzuczek joined workers and union members from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to watch as the emergency department closed on Thursday.

The SEIU said it had filed a grievance against HHHS for the sudden closure.

"We did ask them to cease and desist the closing of the Minden ER, so we will leave that up to an arbitrator when the time comes," said Cindy Seaton, an SEIU representative for HHHS workers. "Staff were very upset. No one wants to see the closure of the Minden ER, we tried to bring their concerns to the hospital, but they're not listening to what we had to say."

Despite the closure, The Kawartha North Family Health Team brought forward its plan in the 11th hour, which could bring an Urgent Care Centre to Minden.

The health team announced on Wednesday that it has filed for funding from the Ministry of Health to bring an urgent care centre to Minden.

"It's something, but it's a very small part of what the town needs," said Bob Carter, Mayor of Minden Hills. "It's sort of like a walk-in clinic, which only represents a fraction of the service that Minden requires."

Mayor Carter told CTV News that while he believes the health team has good intentions, he said he feels it's making similar mistakes to HHHS by failing to consult with the town adequately.

He's also not giving up on the fight to reopen the emergency department.

"Probably September, October, we could be in a position to reopen," Carter added. "But I'm not sure we would be able to do that with the present management and directors of HHHS."

HHHS and The Kawartha North Family Health Team declined to be interviewed on camera, but in a statement, the health team said it is committed to holding consultations should funding be approved.

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