/Council speaks out about ER closure
The HHHS board announced on April 20 that the Minden ER would be closing permanently on June 1, causing a response across the region. Pictured from L, Mayor Bob Carter, John Ellis, Coun. Shirley Johannessen, Patrick Porzuczek, Coun. Pam Sayne, Deptuy Mayor Lisa Schell, and Richard Bradley. All have been active on social and print media to advocate for the Minden ER. /EMILY STONEHOUSE staff

Council speaks out about ER closure

By Emily Stonehouse

Minden council is not on board for the Minden emergency room closure, scheduled for June 1 2023, at which point all emergency services in the county would be permanently relocated to the Haliburton site.

The news was shared with elected politicians just before it broke publicly via a press release. “Minden council is going to stand by the community, and we are going to fight this,” mayor Bob Carter shared with the Times, shortly after the news went live.

The closure was a decision made by the Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) board, and was announced on April 20. HHHS president and CEO Carolyn Plummer was transparent in stating that the reason for the closure is not funding, rather, it came down entirely to staffing.

Upon hearing the news, the community went into a state of upheaval, with hundreds of comments circulating around social media sites, and cobbled together Facebook groups aiming to keep the doors of the Minden ER open.

“This is ill-advised, ill-timed, and ill-planned,” said Carter, “all that ‘ill’ and we don’t even have an emergency room to take care of it.” he snapped.

Carter went on to share that if the timing of the closure were shifted, he may have a different perspective on the matter. But the reality of the situation is that elected officials were never consulted about the decision, he said.

Taking to Facebook himself, the Minden Mayor launched a public call to action on April 21. “Minden Hills and Haliburton County were grievously harmed yesterday,” he started, “the decision by HHHS to close the Minden Emergency Department on June 1st of this year compromises the health and welfare of our people and diminishes our local economy.”

He went on to share that he takes his role as an elected official very seriously, and it is the primary focus for himself and his colleagues to ensure the well-being of the community. Yet, he feels as though the sudden closure was done unilaterally by the HHHS board. “This critical issue was decided by a virtually unelected board acting on its own and shrouded by secrecy,” he said.

According to Carter, the county has attempted to have some representation on the board for quite some time, but has been met to no avail. “I am sorry to say that it verges on hubris to even make such a decision without consultation and discussion with elected officials and the public,” he said.

Carter concluded his post by delivering three action items: firstly, pushing back the closure date from June 1 to Nov. 1 in an attempt to prepare residents, sustain the cottage community, and prepare infrastructure at the Haliburton emerg site. Secondly, he requested transparent conversations with HHHS in order to best support the community at large. And thirdly, he requested that a member of county council sit on the HHHS board moving forward. He noted that he is certain other steps will become apparent as the transition takes shape, but he highlighted the aforementioned as a starting point.

“Minden Council met on Thursday and we unanimously stand shoulder to shoulder with our community to demand that changes be made,” concluded Carter. “It is personal. All of us know at least one person who is walking around our neighborhoods because of the dedicated and available staff in the Minden Emergency Department.”

He urged all concerned citizens to reach out to elected officials, or write letters to the editor to have their voices heard.

County council warden Liz Danielson echoed many of Carter’s concerns. “There is little doubt that the recent announcement by HHHS that emergency and in-patient care services would be combined as of June 1st has caused waves of anger and anxiety across the county,” she said. “Unfortunately, the possibility of temporary closures has been looming over us all for the past year, and we are fortunate that we have managed to continue to keep both facilities open so far.” Danielsen shared with the Times that she understands the financial and staffing issues that HHHS have been experiencing, but is curious about what the next steps are for roll-out of this plan across the county.

Similar to Carter, Danielsen expressed that transparent communications from HHHS would have aided in the reception of the news overall. “While enhanced communications on a number of levels would have been beneficial, we must face this new challenge head on,” she said.