Ford government hiding behind local health service board on Minden ER closing

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.

Photo courtesy of Save Minden Ontario Emergency Room.

The imminent closure of Minden’s ER is nothing more than an unfortunate local decision…if your name is Doug Ford, Sylvia Jones, or Laurie Scott.

Ford, Jones, and Scott, of course, are the premier, the health minister, and the local MPP, all deflecting a decision made by the Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) to close the Minden emergency department, as if they had absolutely nothing to do with this decision.

Earlier this week, Jones chastised the opposition parties for pointing the finger over the closing at the province saying that the decision was strictly a local one and that the province “would support this locally made decision.”

When taken to task by the provincial media on the scheduled closing in Minden, Ford has parroted the same line, suggesting that the province had no role in the final decision. Local MPP Scott, buttressed by supportive keyboard warriors, has both in written answers and in interviews repeated verbatim the self-serving story that the provincial Conservatives had no say in the HHHS decision and therefore have no role in keeping the busy and highly regarded emergency ward open for the residents of Haliburton and the northern regions of Kawartha Lakes. Nothing could be further from the truth, and to believe the provincial talking points indicates a failure of knowledge regarding the role the province plays in funding and managing health care in Ontario.

HHHS gets a significant proportion of its operating budget directly from the province, with the rest coming from public fund-raising campaigns that have been very well supported by the residents of Haliburton County. The province controls the purse strings and HHHS has to make due with what they get. By law, the HHHS cannot run a deficit and may only budget what they have received in provincial grants and through public support.

An analysis from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAOO) says that based on the money currently allocated for health care between 2022 and 2028, the system as a whole will experience a $21 billion shortfall leaving the province with two choices: add new funding or make program cuts or changes to its health care commitments to achieve its health care spending plan targets. It appears with the scheduled closing of the Minden emergency department, and the rumoured closing of other hospitals in Bancroft and Alliston, the province has chosen the latter option which puts HHHS in a real bind.

HHHS president and chief executive officer Carolyn Plummer, who earns in excess of $180,000 a year according to information found on the Ontario Sunshine list site, has told anyone who will listen that the decision to close Minden’s emergency ward was not made for lack of funding but rather a lack of available staff. Plummer has said in numerous interviews and a number of press releases that staffing shortages at the Haliburton and Minden sites have made keeping both open impossible.

One might fairly ask what level of government is responsible for the recruitment, training and pay of medical professionals in Ontario? Is this failure to recruit and retain staff on the HHHS board? Not by a longshot. The FAOO in their most recent report says Ontario will face a shortfall of 33,000 nurses and personal support workers by 2028. Nursing in particular, long seen as a desirable job with security and a pension, cannot recruit enough new nurses to fill the spots left behind by nurses who are reaching retirement age.

What has Doug Ford’s government done to make nursing and personal support worker positions more attractive? Have they offered their nurses a 13 per cent raise over three years like those in British Columbia just received? No. Instead, the Ford Conservatives passed Bill 124 in 2019 that limits pay increases for all hospital workers to one per cent for three years. This attack on free and fair collective bargaining was fully supported by both Jones and Scott.

The province seems to forget that nurses and doctors are the ultimate in free agents who can take their skills anywhere in North America. Hundreds have re-located to the United States and other Canadian provinces where recruiters are promising a better home-life balance, more nurses on the ward at a time and much more money in their pay cheques.

HHHS has not created the conditions for the scheduled closing of Minden’s emergency ward, which saw 12,000 patients last year alone. Ford, Scott and Jones did. The Ford Conservatives have chronically underfunded Ontario’s healthcare system in an attempt to bring it to its knees and make privatization more attractive. The Ford Conservatives consciously and cold-bloodedly decided to go to war with health care workers at all levels, forgetting that these people have very portable skills and will vote with their feet and leave Ontario for greener pastures, like British Columbia.

If the closing of the Minden emergency department does occur on June 1, HHHS and their volunteer board will be made the fall guy if the Ford Conservatives have their way. If life was fair, the provincial Conservatives, rather than HHHS, should be taking full ownership of this healthcare crisis which is 100 per cent of their own making.


  1. Leisa wren says:

    Well done! So accurate! Thank you for the continued coverage! I’m quite interested to read the David o Brian, president of hhhs board has a history ( city of Mississauga) of not informing major shareholders of huge decisions impacting the community. Repeat offender?!!!

  2. Peter McGinn says:

    Another fact is that Haliburton has less useage of Its emergency services by a full 30%.
    On top of this, it was the Haliburton ED which had to close 20 days last yr due to shortage of staff, Minden never closed at all as it was always staffed.
    There are varying levels of political deceipt going on both with the Conservative Party and the HHHS.

  3. Corinne Lavric says:

    Love your article and really appreciate the attention you’ve paid to details that are key to this entire issue.
    I’m not quite willing to let HHHS come off here as being done wrong by the Conservatives since HHHS played an integral part in blindsiding the community and hiding their plans. So far, they’ve evaded every attempt to get a straight answer, and with only two weeks to go, they still haven’t put their “strategic plan” in front of the community…tick tock, tick tock!
    Let’s not forget that HHHS was fully supported by Local MPP Laurie Scott. Where is local MPP Laurie Scott, by the way? MISSING IN ACTION and pretending that she was taken off guard like the community, which is an absolute falsehood. If you ever get to talk to her, please ask her why she is selectively hiding comments on her Facebook page. Guess she can’t take the heat from the fire she helped light.

  4. RobertB says:

    This is a scenario which I believe you will see repeated over the coming years. What is happening in Minden is just a foretaste of things to come. The basic problem is due to a peculiarity in Ontario political culture, i.e. the tendency to vote for Conservatives, election after election, decade after decade. This is particularly pronounced in rural ridings.

    Ford’s refusal to release his mandate letters should have been a tip-off. Rather than release these, as other governments have done, he chose to keep them confidential on a dubious legal justification, which will finally be resolved by the Supreme Court of Canada this coming June or July. If the Supreme Court of Canada rules that those letters must be released (and I hope they will) I believe we will see Ford’s agenda for the privatization of Medicare clearly outlined therein (which is why the letters were hidden in the first place.)

    At the risk of being painfully blunt, you got what you voted for! Based on the mandate letters alone the Conservatives should have been soundly defeated, yet they were elected with an even larger majority — I think that this rural voting tradition had a lot to do with it.

  5. P Bradley says:

    Thank you for recognizing that the province is at least as (in my opinion more) responsible for this closure than the local board. While the board handled the announcement of the closure terribly, it is the cutbacks made by Ford that are at the root. By the time Ford is out of politics and retired with a nice fat investment in private hospitals (see Mike Harris and private LTC) our health care will have deteriorated to 3rd world levels for working class people. We need to tell him no with the OHC referendum o May 26th and 27th, and keep up pressure on Laurie Scott’s office.

  6. Fiona McMurran says:

    Thanks for this hard-hitting article. I really want to see all Ontarians demanding that the Ford government tell us what they’ve done with our healthcare dollars.

  7. Barbara Anderson says:

    Shame on Mr. Ford for his health care policies and shame on HHHS for concealing their plan.

  8. Randall Speller says:

    When citizens ask for tax cuts, when you vote for tax cuts, voters should not be surprised when services are cut. Voters reap what they sow. The Minden ER closure is the result. Enjoy your savings.

  9. Ron Sutch says:

    Very well stated and hope that people start paying attention and not wait until they need services to find out how bad things are. This is all due to the current gov’t decisions. This should not be a political issue but Ford has made it one in my opinion!!

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