Minden Hills’ new urgent care clinic will open for the first time next Friday, June 30 and operate noon to 6 p.m. throughout the Canada Day long weekend.

It will continue to operate on weekends until fully staffed, the Ontario government said in a press release announcing it is providing money to the Kawartha North Family Health Team (KNFHT) to open the clinic in the former Minden emergency department site.

The province made the announcement June 20.

The clinic will provide routine and urgent care to people in the community, and has been described as somewhere between a walk-in clinic and an ER department.

The ministry said it would also provide one-time funding to buy equipment.

KNFHT executive director, Marina Hodson, told a community meeting June 9, she did not think it would take long for the ministry to approve a clinic for the town after its ER was closed June 1, with consolidation of ER services at the Haliburton site.

“KNFHT has provided care to the Minden Hills community since 2007,” Hodson said of the announcement, adding, “we are very proud to be responding to a community need and continuing our commitment to service by operating an urgent care clinic at the Minden site.”

KNFHT has clinics in Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon, with County residents attending those sites.

Planning is underway to operate up to seven days a week, based on the community’s needs. The clinic will be operated and staffed by KNFHT nurse practitioners and registered practical nurses who will provide care to patients with unexpected but non-life-threatening health care concerns through walk-ins and booked appointments.

‘Urgent care not same as ER’

The province said in order to accelerate implementation, it is “working quickly with the KNFHT and Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS).

“KNFHT is continuing to engage the community to determine how the clinic can best serve the people of Minden Hills,” the press release stated. “As a result, while the clinic itself will be managed entirely by KNFHT and its board of directors, it will be located at the former Minden emergency department site, so no major renovations are required.”

The province said HHHS is supporting the operation of the clinic.

“HHHS is pleased to support the KNFHT’s operation of an urgent care clinic at the Minden site,” said interim CEO Veronica Nelson. “This initiative has led to an expedited implementation of an urgent care clinic for our community.”

Minister of health, Sylvia Jones, added, “we recognize the need for all Ontarians to have access to convenient care, closer to home, no matter where they live in the province.” She added her government was proud to be a partner with community partners to help improve care for residents of Minden Hills.

Jones refused to step in after HHHS made the decision to shutter the Minden site, leading to its closure.

MPP Laurie Scott said, “the quick action taken by the KNFHT and supported by HHHS, with support from the ministry is good news, ensuring Minden Hills will have access to an urgent care clinic very soon. Thank you to everyone involved, for working together to make this happen.”

Current hours of operation will be posted on the KNFHT, HHHS and Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Ontario Health Team websites.

Patrick Porzuczek, spokesperson and founder of Save Minden ER and Minden Matters, said, “The Ford government funding the clinic does not mitigate the responsibility for allowing the Minden ER to close.

“The closure of the ER has negative impacts on traumatic instances like heart attacks, immediate cardiac care, strokes, allergic reactions, and urgent community health. The closure has created a hole in health care within the community, and will continue with the pattern we are seeing across the province.”

Porzuczek added urgent care is not the same as an ER and people need accessible local, immediate, access to emergency services when they are faced with life-threatening conditions.

“Hallway health and eight-hour-plus wait times are not acceptable. This does not equal quality health care in Minden or across the province.”

He said the ministry of health “must take immediate steps to reopen the ER as quickly as possible in order to save lives in the community.”

He noted it was the only ER located centrally between Lindsay and Huntsville.

Porzuczek went on to say, “the Ontario Government should be working closely with the Minden and Haliburton communities and learn from their mistakes. It’s not political gain. It’s not about the PC party or Laurie Scott taking accolades for urgent care coming to Minden. It should be about making health care better and stronger for rural Ontario and learning from this community. Together we can rewrite history and implement a health care system that will work collaboratively for all of Ontario.”