The Save Minden Ontario Emergency Room group is planning to seek a court injunction to stop the June 1 closure of the Minden ER.
At a rally at the Minden fairgrounds May 21, group leader Patrick Porzuczek introduced Jayson Schwartz, of Toronto-based firm Schwartz Law Partners. The long-time Minden cottager has, in turn, secured litigators, Ross Nasseri LLP, also of Toronto, to lead the fight.
Addressing hundreds at the rally, Schwartz said he and his wife have had a cottage on South Lake for more than 20 years and now spend 60-65 per cent of their time there.
In offering to work for free on the case, he added, “I have a great love of the community.” He said he specializes in corporate, commercial and real estate law, and is not a litigator, which is why he has brought Mark Ross and Justin Nasseri on.
“I have found us lawyers,” Schwartz told a clapping crowd. “They are remarkable young men who have an unbelievable reputation in the litigation field in Toronto.” Ross and Nasseri met with Schwartz and members of the Save group this past Sunday after the rally.
Schwartz added money donated through his law firm’s email address was being transferred to a trust fund May 23.
He also touched on possible outcomes for the fulltime and seasonal residents who came to donate money for food and drinks and lined up to support the legal challenge.
“Can we permanently stop the closure of this emergency room with litigation? I don’t believe we can, but I do believe we can stop it for June 1,” he said.
Lawyer: time to lobby Premier Ford
Schwartz added, “everybody talks about how HHHS didn’t consult with the community. Sadly, the law seems to say that they don’t have to.
“We have a lot of evidence we’ve put together that will give these lawyers the opportunity to bring an application for an injunction to basically stop this closure. I think that’s a shot and I think that’s where your money is going.”
He said the community has to “turn to other methodologies” to keep the ER open. He suggested establishing a committee of concerned citizens, including the mayor, to meet with Premier Doug Ford, to come up with a long-term plan.
“I say to Mr. Ford, sir, would you please look at what is going on in Minden. Hundreds and hundreds of people have shown up to support keeping their ER open, many of us from Toronto and the environs therein… there has to be a way.”
As the intermediary between the Save group and the litigators, Schwartz added, “I promise to make sure they don’t squander your money. I will make sure they apply it in the best way possible. And I will make sure that every dollar is accounted for. I have to sign every cheque as it goes out, so I am responsible in that regard.”
As of May 21, the community had already raised $50,000 of an estimated $100,000 retainer.
Mayor Bob Carter also spoke at the rally and explained that the township cannot be involved in the legal proceedings.
“There is a big difference between … what an individual can do and what a government can do. Any time government sues government, one, it takes a long time and, two, it costs a lot of money. So, we cannot be seen to be part of any legal action at this point.”
He said he can now talk to HHHS and government, but would lose that ability in the midst of a lawsuit. He added he was not ruling out future legal action by the municipality or County.
Carter renews calls for HHHS board to resign
Carter explained to the crowd why he asked for the HHHS board to resign during a May 16 County council meeting.
He cited his first reason as a lack of consultation by HHHS on the decision. He said HHHS didn’t talk to the doctors, the nurses and the people involved because they were worried about rumours.
He said the second reason was timing. “We want to do this in six weeks. We’ve been working this way for 30 years but in six weeks we’re going to change it all.”
Carter said his third reason was HHHS’ plan for June 1, saying it appeared to be, “we don’t have one yet. We’re going to be making it up over those next six weeks.”
Carter claims the board has failed in its fiduciary (trusting relationship) responsibilities. “They allowed this decision to go forward without any of the things that needed to be done.
“I don’t have the answer, and the plan required for delivering emergency services in all of Haliburton County. If I needed to come up with that answer, I’d have to consult a lot of people. I’d have to be talking to you (the crowd). I’d have to be talking to doctors. I’d have to be talking to nurses and all of the stakeholders, because only together can we develop a plan.”