Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles labelled the closing of the Minden ER “outrageous” May 25, while calling on premier Doug Ford and health minister Sylvia Jones to reverse the decision to close it June 1.

Speaking in downtown Minden, Stiles dismissed Ford, Jones and MPP Laurie Scott’s claims the decision is a local one – made by the Haliburton Highlands Health Services board and management.

“The buck stops with the provincial government when it comes to health care. They have the power to do something. And if this ED is closing, you can be darn sure that the minister of health had to sign off on that. I think we need to hold them to account and hold them responsible and we need to shame them.

“It is their responsibility to ensure this stays open. Ford and Jones have the tools and the resources to do the right thing and cancel this decision immediately. They can listen to the voices of the community, advocates, health care professionals, and so many others who have been unequivocal that this is worth saving, that the right thing to do is worth doing,” she added.

Speaking in the town’s Village Green, Stiles said it is not normal for a local ED to close and leave rural communities without timely access to health care; for the minister of health to abdicate responsibility; and for a premier to ignore community voices.

She also panned HHHS and its board.

“This is really extraordinary, to, out of nowhere, with no consultation with the community, no consultation with emergency services, such as paramedics, and police and firefighters and ORNG ambulance, to just go ahead and announce, a-month-and-a-half out, that they were going to close the emergency department. It’s outrageous and the only thing probably more outrageous than that is the fact that the local MPP, Laurie Scott, Ford, and Jones have refused to show any responsibility or to take action and stand with these folks.”

She said the NDP were listening and standing with the Minden community. A petition to stop the closure has garnered 24,000 signatures.

“We are working together to save this emergency room and save rural emergency rooms across the province,” the official opposition leader added.

Residents descended on the green with signs and told Stiles their stories. Business owners are worried about people not coming to, or leaving, the community. Others said they would not have moved to the area with aging relatives had they known this was coming.

She noted the June 1 closure comes “when cottage-goers are arriving, when parents will be dropping off their children to nearby summer camps, and when local residents will be out and about enjoying the summer weather. They’re going to be needing reassurance that timely, nearby, emergency room services will be there for them – if emergencies strike.”

“I am incredibly inspired by the people of Minden, but they shouldn’t have to fight for basic medical services in their community like this. They shouldn’t have to be raising money to mount a legal challenge when their premier could just listen.”

Stiles added she’s concerned about the direction Ontario is heading in terms of health care.

“Some people will say we’ve spent too much money on health care. I can’t see it.

“We have a health care crisis across this province because we have a government that actually fails to spend the money they were allocated on health care.

“The health crisis we are seeing today was created. It is chaos and the government is using this as an excuse to bring in privatization, private clinics. That’s going to be their answer,” she said.

“The vultures are circling over the community of Minden. We cannot afford to sit back and stand by and let this happen. What happens in Minden is what’s going to happen across this province if we’re not careful.”

As for the closure coming in a staunch Conservative riding, long held by Scott, Stiles said, “the government really takes communities like Minden for granted – they’ve done that for too long.”