Plans to file an injunction aimed at halting the closure of the emergency department in Minden, Ont., have been scrapped while business owners from the community made a last-ditch plea Tuesday for the government to intervene.
y75miwcfqoq.cloudfront.net/70c8fc80" style="position:absolute;width:1px;height:1px" referrerpolicy="no-referrer-when-downgrade"/>
Patrick Porzuczek with the “Save the Minden ER” campaign says lawyers they hired determined that no judge would grant an injunction or judicial review of the scheduled June 1 ER closure, with plans to consolidate with services at the hospital in Haliburtonabout 30 kilometres north.
A letter from Jayson Schwarz of Schwarz Law Partners LLP issued to media outlines two key reasons an injunction wouldn’t be granted. He notes the Minden site is not a standalone hospital and that there is no current legislation or case law to support an injunction. He also explained some Minden physicians have already taken jobs elsewhere and restaffing the Mind IS would not likely be possible during the summer.
Residents had raised more than $85,000 to file an injunction and have asked for a one-year moratorium on the closure to find other alternatives.
In messages on the near 5,000 member Facebook group fighting the closure, Porzuczek said their legal team “did their best” and looked at “every possible angle” to fight the decision announced by Haliburton Highlands Health Services in late April — six weeks before the June 1 closure.
The health board says ongoing and severe staffing shortages are the driver for the “operational decision” to ensure at least one emergency room remains open at all times.
Ontario MPPs join Minden residents in fight to keep ER from closing
“I personally and truly believe that we had a case for the injunction,” said Porzuczek, one of the main organizers of multiple campaigns including 26,000 signatures on petitions seeking a moratorium.
An emotional Porzuczek said he’s taking the injunction loss “really personal.”
“I really believed in this injunction,” he said.
“I don’t want to lose this ED for anyone in this town.”
However, Schwarz notes there may be a chance to have the emergency department reopen by the fall by challenging the Canada Health Act to “protect, promote and restore of physical and mental well-being of residents and to facilitate ‘reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”
“The closing of the emergency in Minden Hills could be seen as being contrary to the Act and creating a situation where residents are denied reasonable access to health services,” Schwarz stated.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled at the Minden hospital on Wednesday beginning at 10 p.m. at the entrance of Deep Bay Road.
Porzuczek says the fight is not over and he’s not giving up.
“Look at the fight we fought and we’re still fighting,” he said. “We’ve hit a roadblock. (That) doesn’t mean there still isn’t something that can’t be done to save the ED come the fall.”
On Tuesday — a day before the ER’s last full day in Minden — some Minden and area business owners attended Queen’s Park in Toronto to raise awareness of the issue alongside NDP MPPs.
Mathew Renda of Boshkung Brewing says he moved to Minden in October 2020 and “purposely” settled one street over from the hospital due to his ill mother-in-law to ensure that health care is present when needed.
He said on the business side, he and other entrepreneurs will see an impact as residents move or tourists decide not to visit the area.
“With people coming to our hospital, it takes the pressure off all the surrounding communities like Muskoka, the Kawarthas, the Barrie-Simcoe area,” he said. “And with our hospital being gone, we’re going to see a huge drop in our tourism traffic, which drastically affects my business and the business of everybody behind me and back at Minden.”
Dennis Pennie, owner of Minden Auto Care, said the older population in Haliburton County will be most impacted by the ER closure.
“We care for our community and this closure will hurt a lot of our clientele, who are above the age of 60,” he said. “And we’ve heard from them that they need health care; they need to be somewhere close. So there is a good chance that I am going to lose up to 40 per cent of my business in the next five years because of this ER closure. The community we serve needs health care close by. Haliburton’s hospital is already having a difficult time, and this closure will put a lot of pressure on that hospital and on our community.”
Minden residents fighting to keep local ER open
Mark Dracup, owner of The Rockcliffe Restaurant and Hotel which he bought in 2020, says the fallout from the ER closure will impact every layer of the community.
“This is not hyperbole, there is going to be blood on the hands of those making this decision,” he said. “So all we are asking is that (Premier) Ford, who I am a supporter of, please reconsider this decision. Give it time to allow the community to understand fully the impact — work with them to make the move, or at least discuss the property transition going forward. But please delay this decision.”
The province — including health minister Sylvia Jones — has repeatedly said the ER closure is a health board-led decision in the “best interest” of the community. Jones has noted the Minden site remains open for non-emergency services.
NDP Health critic France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) on Tuesday again asked Jones and the province to intervene in the closure.
“You have 35 hours to do the right thing,” she said. “This is a very sad day for many people. There are laws in Ontario that govern how these decisions are made, and none of them were followed. How can that be? What is happening here is wrong. Give the people a chance to be heard, give the community a transition plan, and figure out a solution.”
Her party colleague Chris Glover (Spadina – Fort York) says the six-week notice of the closure is a sign of the government’s “privatization agenda.”
“This government is undermining the province’s competitive advantage with their privatization agenda,” said Glover. “They are putting the livelihoods of local businesses at risk, and they are putting the health of local residents and tourists at risk. The government must reverse course on this decision.”
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.