Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said if her government is elected in 2026, it will reopen the Minden emergency room.

Stiles’ comment, over Zoom, solicited the applause of about 30 people who gathered July 21 at the Village Green gazebo in Minden. They came to hear from NDP member for Spadina-Fort York, Chris Glover, more than seven weeks after the Minden ER was closed and consolidated at the Haliburton site.

Glover spoke before a weekend in which he said eight rural hospital ERs were scheduled to be temporarily closed over the July 22-23 weekend.

“This town has been fighting tooth and nail to save that Minden ER, and now to get the Minden Hospital reopened and we’re going to keep that fight going,” Glover said.

He added the NDP looked at Minden as “ground zero” for the bigger fight for health care across the province, particularly for rural hospitals.

He conceded the province has a healthcare staffing shortage – which was cited in the ER consolidation in Haliburton County – but said the Ford government contributed to that shortage with Bill 124. It caps public sector wage increases at one per cent a year. Glover said courts have said it is a violation. The Liberals are taking the fight to the Supreme Court.

Glover said it points to the government plan to privatize the public health care system. “They usually talk about innovation, but innovation is code for privatization. They want to turn our public health care system, our public hospitals, over to private, for-profit corporations. This is absolutely unconscionable.” He added people are paying extra fees to get to the front of the line for surgeries.

“This (Minden ER) closure is also about privatization. The way we are going to fight back, and are continuing to fight back, is by organizing communities like this one.” He noted the NDP were holding press conferences in four communities last Friday.

“We’re putting pressure on the government to reopen the Minden ER, to stop the appeal of Bill 124. We’re asking them to fund our public hospital system, to stop privatizing the system, to stop diverting our tax dollars over to the private hospitals…,” Glover said.

Rob Loucks was involved in an accident on Hwy. 35 outside of Tim Hortons in Minden July 14. His wife, Sharon, said with the Minden ER just five minutes away but now closed, Rob was taken nearly 30 minutes to Haliburton Hospital. He was eventually taken to Lindsay for a CT scan, and then driven back to Haliburton. She did not see him until 9:30 p.m. She said if the Minden ER were open, there would have been a huge difference in the timeline.

Glover said in May, only 28 per cent of people going to ERs were admitted within eight hours, which he said was “appalling.”

The Save Minden Ontario Emergency Room group is organizing a rally for it and other communities facing the same situation on Aug. 26.

When the NDP, led by Bob Rae, won the provincial election in 1990, a recession was beginning. His government developed community care access centres in lieu of expensive hospital services. But as the economy sputtered, the Rae government turned to spending constraints including ‘Rae days’, or 12 unpaid work days for provincial employees. Nurses and other health care providers were affected, and doctors found their billing options capped.