House fires, car crashes, and infected dog bites have impacted the Minden community over the last week, but the Minden ER can no longer respond.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services shut down the Minden ER on June 1, transferring its nurses to the hospital in Haliburton. In an April 2023 press release, the HHHS cited staff shortage as the main reason for the closure.
In response, around 5,000 people have joined the “Save Minden Ontario Emergency Room” Facebook group to protest the decision. They also gathered 24,000 physical signatures calling for the ER to remain open, which NDP leader Marit Stiles presented to the Ontario Legislature.
According to group founder and Minden resident Patrick Porzuczek, the closure has already caused issues in the community.
On the morning of June 4, seven people escaped a Minden house fire with minor injuries. Instead of being able to walk several blocks to the Minden ER, Porzuczek says they had to travel around 25 minutes to the Haliburton hospital.
“Let’s just say those people didn’t get out. Could you imagine—without medications, without proper trauma care—the pain that person would be in from blistering burns? I would never want to feel what that person would feel on that 25-minute drive,” says Porzuczek, who added that he has seen this happen in his time as a firefighter.
On June 5, three people were injured in a three-car collision on Highway 118. One with serious injuries was airlifted to Toronto, while the two others were brought to the Haliburton hospital. Porzuczek says the Minden ER would have been 10 minutes closer. He adds that it was one of few hospitals between Lindsay and southern Ontario along Highways 118 and 35, so the closure risks longer travel times for ambulances.
It also poses a personal risk to Porzuczek. When he and his family moved to Minden in 2015, they chose a home near the ER in case he needed treatment for the hole in his heart. Doctors have since shocked his heart back to a regular rhythm three times, with one incident requiring regular Minden ER visits for over a year.
The Minden ER also recently diagnosed his 6-year-old daughter with arrhythmia. If her condition gets worse, Porzuczek says his family may consider moving—even though a family-owned clinic in Minden is temporarily operating an emergency clinic at the ER, he says it doesn’t have nearly the same resources as before.
Minden mayor Bob Carter and deputy mayor Lisa Schell say they spent the six weeks before the closure fighting alongside the community. During that time, they contacted the HHHS, the Ontario Ministry of Health, and their region’s members of Parliament to potentially reverse the decision. They also stationed an ambulance at the ER on the day of the closure.
Schell says they have received hundreds of phone calls and emails from concerned residents since the announcement.
“In my 17 years on council, this is the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with,” Schell says.
She says Moore Falls resident Steve Hertel went to the Minden ER the night before it closed to get checked for a dog bite on his hand. It’s now infected, so he needs to make the 45-minute drive to the Haliburton hospital every eight hours for IV treatment, sometimes waking up as early as 3 a.m.
“We need to continue to seek options of ways to get the ER reinstated as soon as possible,” Schell says. “The Minden ER doctors have said that, should we be able to reopen in the Fall, they would be willing to come back.”
However, Mayor Carter says this could be difficult to organize since their doctors are contract workers. They sign onto new positions months to years in advance, so they would have to wait until their contracts expire to return to Minden.
He added that the need for this ER will be proven over the summer when the town’s population more than triples because of seasonal cottagers and vacationers.
“The HHHS underestimates the needs of the community,” Carter says.
Porzuczek is taking his campaign to restore the ER one step further. On June 8, he met with representatives from Chesley, Wingham, Clinton, and Seaforth, all Ontario communities that have also felt threatened by plans to close crucial hospitals. He says they’re scared by how fast Minden’s ER closed, since their hospitals have gone through year-long shutdowns, and their doctors were given advance notice.
He says he’s working with the representatives to raise awareness about the closures and prevent Minden’s situation from becoming the norm in Ontario.
“It’s healthcare. It’s not hope, it’s not politics,” Porzuczek says. “They’re supposed to keep us safe.”
The HHHS was not available for comment.