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With clock ticking, Minden residents take fight to save emergency department to Queen's Park


With just hours to go until the planned closure of their town's emergency department, Minden residents took their fight to save it to Queen's Park.

Earlier this Spring, Haliburton Highlands Health Services announced its plans to consolidate the emergency department at Minden's hospital into Haliburton's hospital, which is about 25 minutes outside the town.

"This will be upwards of an hour for a lot of people in the community," Mark Dracup, the owner of the Rockcliffe Hotel, said in a news conference at Queen's Park on Tuesday. "It's not only Haliburton. It's Kawarthas and the surrounding areas, and that's in good weather."

Minden residents, many of them established business owners, were sitting in the legislature's gallery at Queen's Park Tuesday when the Ford government was forced on defence over the decision.

"The Conservatives are turning their backs on Minden families, on cottagers, on kids in summer camps," Marit Stiles, the leader of the official opposition, said in the legislature Tuesday morning. "They are turning their backs on business owners."

Many business owners at Queen's Park Tuesday argued that the closure would have a ripple effect on the local economy. They say the closure, which is to go into effect before June 1, comes just as the town sees an influx in its population due to the summer tourism season.

"Our business is solely driven on tourism and community, and without the ER, we're going to lose that," said Mathew Renda, the general manager of Boshkung Brewing. "My mother-in-law, who is sick, who has heart conditions, lives with us, and we purposefully moved one street over from the hospital to always ensure that we have healthcare present and there when we need it."

Residents fear that people who spend much of the summer in the community will instead go somewhere with an emergency department nearby.

"Would you send your child to a place that has no hospital and that has had the hype that we've had in the last six weeks," asked Dennis Penny, the owner of Minden Autocare. "A lot of parents aren't going to send their kids to our camps, and our camps are going to suffer from that."

Throughout the saga, the Ford government has maintained that the decision was made by the hospital itself, a defence the health minister and deputy premier stuck by on Tuesday.

"Hospitals are independent corporations governed by their own board of directors who are duly elected from their communities that they serve," Sylvia Jones, the health minister, said during Tuesday's sitting of the legislature.

However, the opposition's health critic is accusing the Ford government of not following the rules, saying there was no public consultation or 60-day notice, something she says is mandatory.

"None of this makes any sense, to say that closing Minden is a decision made by the board that has nothing to do with the Minister of Health," asked NDP health critic France Gelinas. "It's because we have a Minister of Health who does not understand her responsibility or refuses to take her responsibility. It is on her shoulders."

Liberal leader John Fraser said there were multiple temporary closures of emergency departments across Ontario last summer due to staffing shortages. His confusion with this decision comes from Minden's emergency department never closing, said Fraser.

"She's the minister of health. She has to ask the right questions," Fraser said. "It's not right just to say it's their decision. It's going to cost some money but find a solution. You're closing the ER that didn't close last summer. How does that make any sense? It's crazy."

The residents say their fight is far from over, even if the closure moves ahead as planned.

"We're a community that is going to continue to fight together and, if anything, become stronger so that this doesn't happen to other communities," said business owner Renda."If it can happen to us, it can really happen to anybody." Top Stories

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