Are those in power really ensuring they’re doing no harm by closing Minden ER?

Kirk Winter Headshot

By Kirk Winter

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

The Haliburton Hospital will be busier than ever with the imminent closure of Minden Hospital's ER.

The clock ticks down on the planned June 1 closing of the emergency ward at the hospital in Minden, with little hope in sight for a policy reversal. It is a hospital that services thousands of residents from Kawartha Lakes every year, and so will most certainly affect residents here.

But have the provincial government and the Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) failed to ensure that, if nothing else, their decisions would do no harm to those they serve?

Who is responsible for this monstrous health policy gaffe? Unfortunately, there is lots of blame to go round.

Premier Doug Ford

Health care is largely a provincial responsibility and funding health care and ensuring its facilities are well staffed is solely the purview of his government and Minister of Health Sylvia Jones, who Ford chose to oversee this multi-billion-dollar portfolio.

Recent reports from government watchdogs at Queen’s Park point out that the Ford funding plan for health care over the next six years short changes the system over $20 billion. Ford has also chosen this time to pass draconian labour legislation that imposes a series of one per cent pay raises on health care workers of all kinds when neighbouring provinces like British Columbia are offering their nurses a 13 per cent pay raise over the next three years.

Ford, who is also strangling post-secondary facilities for funding, shrugs his shoulders and has no answers about health care worker shortages when, at minimum, the province should be opening at least one more medical school and another two nursing schools. Thousands of outstanding young medical school candidates are forced to leave Ontario to train abroad because the number of seats at Ontario medical schools has remained stagnant, even after the lessons learned from COVID-19. Once they have qualified where they are studying, many choose not to come home and those much-needed doctors spend their working careers in England or Australia, helping their citizens instead of ours.

Ford also likes to wring his hands along with the health minister saying they had nothing to do with the closing in Minden, naming and shaming the HHHS. Ford and Jones suggest that this closure is completely on HHHS while in reality, they are only fish trying to survive in the ocean created by the provincial Tories.

It is clear to most that the premier and his backers want private health care. Perhaps the privatization call will come first from communities like Minden which has had important aspects of its public health care ripped way from them while the premier’s summertime hospital in Muskoka is getting millions in additional funding.

Provincial MPP Laurie Scott

It has been hard to watch the pitiful performance of the local member over the last six weeks as she has played “duck and cover” while thousands of people in her riding, many died-in-the-wool multigenerational Conservative voters, have pleaded with Laurie to attend their meetings, speak at their rallies, deliver their petitions to Queen’s Park and speak out against this closing.

The Scott political dynasty in Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton has long been built on the ability of father Bill, and then daughter Laurie, to deliver federal and provincial largesse in the form of better roads, good schools and world class health care to the people of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

It appears that our current MPP, Scott, has utterly failed to represent her constituents on this issue. Apparently 24,000 signatures on petitions can be ignored if you don’t want to earn the wrath of the premier. I am baffled at what Scott thinks she has to lose by opposing the Minden closure, as her federal Conservative counterpart Jamie Schmale has loudly and consistently done, even entering his opposition to this closure into the parliamentary Hansard. Scott has already been demoted from cabinet and exiled to the parliamentary back benches with all the other followers of candidates who opposed the premier in his rise to party leadership. I fail to see how her opposition to this wildly unpopular closing could lessen her standing in the eyes of the premier. That boat has already sailed.


In my seven years of covering municipal politics right across the riding I have never seen something as important as a hospital closing botched as badly as this has been by the CEO Carolyn Plummer and her seemingly clueless volunteer board.

From Day One they have made error after error, starting with their rollout of the closing, their flawed rationale, their failure to meet with community groups who might be affected by the closing and their constantly changing message.

I am not a healthcare expert, HHHS, but riddle me this: why are you closing the busier hospital which is fully staffed through the summer season, doing it with indecent haste and refusing to meet or discuss your decisions in all but the most controlled situations?

We have been cottagers in Haliburton since 1947. Its communities are small and folks know folks. I can’t imagine what it is going to be like for all these HHHS members who have to face their neighbours at social events, BBQs, church picnics or standing in line at the grocery store or LCBO. I hope for their sake they live on the Haliburton side of the county because the folks in and around Minden are furious, and that is not going to go away any time soon.

The only way Plummer can save this abomination is replacing the emergency unit with some kind of fully staffed walk-in clinic sooner than later to attend to the basic health care needs of Minden Hills-area residents. Besides losing their emergency department they just lost one of their long-time family doctors who announced their retirement earlier this month.

Wasn’t Broken

My father used to always tell us that if something isn’t broken it doesn’t need to be fixed. The hospital in Minden certainly wasn’t broken, seeing over 12,000 patients last year with waiting times that seldom exceeded four hours.

I cannot imagine what both local and summer people will begin experiencing starting this weekend with everyone now being funneled into the wholly insufficient little hospital in Haliburton.

I cannot imagine what will happen to wait times at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay when 4,400 patients who used Minden last year are added to their roster because northern residents of Kawartha Lakes are forced by this closing to come south.

I cannot imagine how much worse this will get if Bancroft Hospital is forced to limit their hours or close their emergency ward because the provincial government has so badly handled the healthcare portfolio.

Potential tragedies can be easily avoided with a provincial government that cares, a local MPP who stands up for her citizens and a health service that actually consults with local residents before deciding to close a vitally needed healthcare centre.


  1. Martha Indovina says:

    Bang on!
    I heard someone this week say….no sane person would take the parts off a good bicycle to fix a broken bicycle. You would get the spare parts needed to fix the broken bicycle and therefore have 2 bicycles…. It certainly feels like the efficient Minden site is being dismantled to fix the Haliburton site, rather than fixing the staffing issues in Haliburton and maintaining both sites. Both sites are needed!

  2. Cathy Mauro says:

    Thank you. Extremely well written and very knowledgeable!

  3. Jane N. Taylor says:

    By and large, well said. Sylvia Jones (MoH) announced they are opening TWO medical schools, not one. No details! Nursing schools?? Who knows–women and and men both (especially women) have far more career choices than they once had.
    I strongly believe that the Minister of Health needs to appoint ASAP, a Supervisor for HHHS. Such a person would assume the powers of the Board and CEO and conduct a thorough investigation into all aspects of the operation. The current incumbents have no credibility and are seemingly untrustworthy. What professional would want to come and work in an organisation that has lost all trust and credibility?

  4. Leisa Wren says:

    Once again, thank you for the insightful article!!! You hit the nail on the head!!! This is a travesty and I think your analysis is accurate!!! Thank
    You 😊

  5. Anne Hepburn says:

    Thanks for a good article. I am so angry at the Ford Govt and it’s private health care bias.
    But I am lucky. If I get sick I can stay in the city. If a Minden citizen gets sick or hurt, they are in big trouble. Travel time to Halliburton is longer and more costly.
    Most other health care locations are many miles farther away.
    Kudos for a good analysis!!

  6. Nancy Rogers says:


  7. Gary O says:

    So true! The whole situation is a disaster. It starts at Doug Ford and trickles down into the HHHS board.

  8. Carolyn Pawson says:

    Thank you Kirk. This is the most incite-full analysis I’ve read.
    My heart breaks for the unnecessary deaths that are going to occur because of Ford’s greed and need to push his plans through no matter the cost to his citizens.
    Any thoughts on what we can do to stop him?
    I will share this. Thank you!

  9. Susan Foster says:

    Outstanding analysis. Thank you.

  10. Mary McGee says:

    According to The Highlander, The Kawartha North Family Health Team (KNFHT) has provided notice to Ontario Health that it wants to open an urgent care clinic at the Minden hospital. Executive director, Marina Hodson, said an official expression of interest had been submitted to the province May 31.
    This request needs to be expedited – take note Laurie Scott, Sylvia Jones and Doug Ford.

  11. Winter clearly wants an NDP government. (Or perhaps a Liberal government if Crombie seizes the OLP reins.) And as the left is famous for, he doesn’t miss a chance to bash the incumbents during a crisis that concerns and affects everyone regardless of political allegiance.

    Kirk conveniently omitted the fact that MPP Scott has spent her time not on social media or at rallies too risky for any politician or HHHS board member to attend (the NDP has been capitalizing on panic in Minden by stoking rage) but by fielding calls from constituents concerned about this issue and negotiating with North Kawartha Family Health Team and Ontario to turn the Minden site into an urgent care centre.

    One of the biggest drains on our ER departments is residents who use them as walk-ins. They take a pierced ear infection to the ER instead of buying some neosporin.

    MP Schmale has been clear that he thinks the HHHS handled how they made and communicated their decision to close the Minden ER poorly but that it is not up to him or MPP Scott to make that decision. It is the board’s responsibility and while government can work with the board, they can’t do their work for them.

    Not only are there not enough acute care beds at the Minden site to support the growing ER needs but there is also a lack of housing to accommodate more healthcare personnel should they be hired. It is a complex issue but no one should be afraid to go to Minden as Winter recommends.

    MPP Scott has promised to advocate to Ontario on behalf of the North Kawartha Family Health team proposal to convert the Minden site to an urgent care centre. I hope residents and reporters alike will support this very good idea too, instead of agitating for a political lynching.

    • Carolyn Pawson says:

      Ms Scott has spent her time hiding from her constituents not talking with them. I have sent numerous respectful requests via email and been blocked. Phone call requests have not been returned. She did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge our delegation to Queens Park on any of our visits. This is not someone who is working for her constituents.
      Accute bed space is just a distraction. Minden was set up with 11 of those, on the second floor, during Covid. They were only disassembled recently.
      Ms Scott’s refusal to stand up for her constituents during the past 6 weeks says it all! “ It’s the Boards decision” is a total cop-out. The current Board is so obviously incompetent and has very questionable motives. There is no defence for what has happened. Those involved or those who refused to get involved, when they could have made a difference, are now going to feel the consequences of their actions.

    • Gary O says:

      I suggest you do some homework. The beds in Minden were offered years back in order to keep both the Minden and Haliburton Hospital. And to suggest Laurie Scott is doing her job is a joke. She ignored the situation. Unlike Marit Stiles who supported the Minden residents in every way. Keep voting PC and see what you get.

    • Would the NKFHC proposal fall into the ‘private’ or ‘corporate’ category? Pull public funding and then support a private interest that generously offers to ‘step up’. This is not what the public wants.

  12. Christine Lowther says:

    Well done. Shame on MPP Scott. She was elected by the people to serve the people in her community. Hope everyone remembers this during the next election.

  13. Dale Gillespie says:

    The county of Haliburton was given money from the province and the local Health Board decided to spend it on Haliburton, not Minden. Ford is not at fault here since the local Health Board, headed by Plummer to take the money, staff and equipment from Minden and use it in Haliburton. Not only will the Haliburton Emergency department be deluged with patients, the Lindsay Ross Memorial will be a lot busier. The wait time in Lindsay is now 5 to 8 hours and this will be increased once the summer people start using our facilities. I would put the blame on the Haliburton Health Board; they have totally managed to create the current situation of dissension. If I lived in Minden, I would welcome an Urgent Care Clinic, it is better than nothing. The doctors would come to Minden but they have stated they will not come to Haliburton since their contracts do not cover this.

    • You’re assuming that Ford did not intentionally provide too little $$, requiring the board to make the closure decision and deflecting blame from Ford. School boards are being forced to do similar. Let’s put Blame where it belongs: Ford and Jones.

  14. Bradley Sales says:

    A lot of unfair things can be said in fear and anger. It is good that a news media outlet like this allows comments. It would be best if the media outlets tried to be fair in editorials when there is a serious community event. It is sad to see political axe grinding that has little to do with health care.

  15. Avatar photo Roderick Benns says:

    Bradley, this is an opinion piece and it’s clearly labelled as such. We have certainly shared the ‘other side’ in other instances, such as this release from HHHS:

    Thank you for your comment.

  16. Patricia Arnold says:

    What a well written article. Hit the nail square, right on the head. I certainly hope something can be done before a terrible tragedy happens. Doug Ford said the Minden Hospital would NOT CLOSE but what has happened, it had. He needs to step up to the plate and tell us why this happened. Apparently, he can’t be trusted at his word. We need accessible health care which is not available for many residents in this small community.

  17. Stephanie Joseph says:

    Great article! Couldn’t of said it better! Thanks for the support!

  18. Ron Sutch says:

    Well stated and it is how a lot of people have perceive what happened! This should not be a political issue but how can it not be and yet they get voted in but I hope that is about to change. Laurie Scott never takes the reins for her constituents on any of their issues unless there is a photo-op of some sort!

  19. Tom Mohr says:

    Well stated, Kirk. We don’t see much advocacy at Queen’s Park unless it is in lockstep with DoFo. Pity.

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