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Citizens join forces to fight against rural ER closures

Residents in both Chesley and Minden, Ont. are kindred spirits. Chesley has a part-time emergency room, open Monday to Friday, during daytime hours. Minden on the other hand is facing something worse: a full emergency room closure, starting on June 1.

“What they’re doing in Minden is going to be the new game plan that’s going to affect all of Ontario,” said Minden resident, Patrick Porzuczek.

Minden citizens, fighting to save their hospital, recently stopped in Chesley to let Midwestern Ontario residents know that their community could be next to lose their ER completely.

“Seven weeks ago, we weren’t thinking about it. We thought everything was, at least, okay. We never even had an emergency room closure,” said Minden resident, Richard Bradley.

Along with Chesley, which has seen rolling emergency department closures since 2019, Clinton hasn’t had a 24/7 ER for the past three years, Wingham has seen partial ER closures every weekend this month, and hospitals in Seaforth and St.Marys have also seen temporary closures to their hospital’s emergency rooms over the past two years.

A lack of nurses and doctors are being blamed for the closures.

“We pay the same taxes as anybody else, and we have a right to safe and accessible health care, and we demand that we have it,” said Bradley.

Minden and Chesley’s citizens groups said it’s time for communities with compromised hospitals to stand up together, and demand better health care in rural Ontario.

“If we go down to Queen’s Park, and we ask for priority attention one at a time, we’re easy to pick off because we’re small. But, if we all go down together, that’s a much larger number and we think that might really be effective,” said Brenda Scott, who helped found the Chesley Hospital Community Support group.

While acknowledging the ER pressures in Ontario, the Ministry of Health said they’re doing all they can to help small hospital ERs stay open.

“The Emergency Department Locum Program provides urgent locum coverage to designated hospitals facing significant challenges covering emergency department shifts,” explained Hannah Jensen, press secretary for Minister of Health, Sylvia Jones. “Last year, through this program, nearly 1,500 emergency room closures were diverted.” 

“This is a fight, not just for Chesley and Minden. This is a fight for every community in this province," added NDP MPP, Chris Glover. "They need to be watching because their ER, their hospitals, could be next.” Top Stories

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