While Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) holds its fourth and final town hall meeting in Highlands East the morning of Aug. 26, the Minden Matters committee will be preparing for its Minden Ground Zero rally and hometown concert at the fairgrounds that afternoon.

Patrick Porzuczek said he and his committee invited HHHS acting CEO Veronica Nelson and board chair David O’Brien to attend but they have declined. So, too, has MPP Laurie Scott.

The grassroots organizer said they offered a police escort to hold the town hall at the fairgrounds, saying, “we’ll give you the hour, the hour and a half, to address the crowd, address Minden, address the population, we’re going to have the whole County there. It’s a great way for you to have the exposure, to answer questions, be outside and be a big part of the event.”

HHHS is hosting its town hall from 10-11 a.m. at the Lloyd Watson Memorial Community Centre in Wilberforce. They also held one in Algonquin Highlands Aug. 22.

“The purpose of these town halls is to provide you with information regarding the decision to consolidate the emergency departments, hear from you and discuss together how we plan to continue to provide high-quality care for this community for today, and into the future,” Nelson has said. HHHS added questions could be submitted to Lauren Ernst at lernst@hhhs.ca

As for the Minden Matters event this Saturday, Porzuczek said the committee “just wanted to keep the awareness going, and bringing all of rural Ontario to one place. We’re calling Minden ‘ground zero’. We were the first hospital to close in the six weeks.”

He said they had confirmation that Liberal health critic, Dr. Adil Shamji, is attending, as well as Stephanie Bowman, the Liberal MPP for Don Valley West. They are anticipating NDP representation as well.

The event has been advertised across the province. Porzuczek said he expects representatives from Chelsea, Ontario, perhaps Blind River and Sault Ste. Marie, and Ottawa.

In addition to trying to keep momentum to have the ER reopened, the committee wants to bring County residents together. “It’s time for the County, for Haliburton, for Algonquin Highlands, for Kinmount, for Lindsay, for Minden… all the people who have used the hospital to actually get together. Do a little bit of a summer blowout. Do a friendship festival. Talk to each other. Get to know each other,” Porzuczek said.

Ryan Van Lee is performing live at the gathering that is scheduled for 1 to 6 p.m. The day will feature a by-donation BBQ, refreshments, live music, a DJ and guest speakers.

Back to the politics, Porzuczek said, “it’s about bringing awareness as to what’s happening with the closing of the Minden ER… keeping the pressure up and hopefully something will give in the next couple of months, or couple of years, where the Minden ER comes back to life.

“This event has to happen. If it doesn’t, it looks better for the Ford government. They can say, ‘look, nobody cares. We closed it. They made a ruckus. Nobody cares. Nobody’s turning up’. We can’t cancel it.”

He said their goal is to highlight awareness for people, and to have them share their stories. “And, it’s also for other communities to know that they’re not alone, that what happened to Minden, the way they closed Minden, could happen to them. For them to start standing up and being more involved in their own (health services) boards, their own municipalities, to know exactly what’s going on and start fighting back.”

Porzuczek also attended the Association of Municipalies of Ontario (AMO) conference in London Aug. 21,

See mindenmatters.com for more information.