A hastily-organized press conference in front of the Chesley hospital Friday, May 26 saw visitors from Minden join local dignitaries and representatives of the Save Our Hospital committee. Pictured from left: MPP Chris Glover (NDP – Spadina-Fort York); Arran-Elderslie Mayor Steve Hammell; Bruce County Warden Chris Peabody; Save Minden ER representatives Patrick Porzuczek, Richard and Sandi Bradley; and Save Our (Chesley) Hospital co-chairs Hazel Pratt and Brenda Scott. Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

“Someone’s going to die,” said Richard Bradley of Minden, as he stood outside the Chesley hospital Friday, May 26.

With the announced June 1 closure of the Minden emergency room mere days away, Bradley, his wife Sandi Bradley, and Patrick Porzuczek, representing the Save Minden ER group, were in Chesley to warn that all of Ontario’s small, rural hospitals are at risk.

The goal of the Minden group, and the Save Our (Chesley) Hospital committee, is to get the attention of the Ford government and fight hospital closures.

As Bradley explained it, that “golden hour” between when a health crisis occurs, and when the person gets medical help, can spell the difference between life and death. Without an emergency room in Minden, someone – a geriatric patient, a pediatric patient, or anyone in between – will die before they can get the care they need. 

He added, “And the blood will be on their hands.”

He was speaking about the Doug Ford government.

Brenda Scott, co-chair of the Save Our (Chesley) Hospital committee and organizer of Friday’s press conference, added that the provincial budget “has no money in it for small, rural hospitals.” 

Hazel Pratt, the other co-chair, added that small, rural hospitals like the one in Chesley, serve a community that includes a lot of seniors, as well as a large Amish and Mennonite community. They’re used by people who don’t have easy access to transportation. 

“It’s not like in the city,” she said.

Scott said she’d like to tell Ford, “Doug, you were elected in communities like this one, places that are at risk of losing our hospitals.”

She urged him to remember an old, rural saying, “Dance with the one that brung you!”

Local dignitaries comment on health care situation

Porzuczek and Bradley commented that Minden and Chesley have a lot in common. Both are small and rural, and both get a lot of tourists. The busy season for both communities is just getting started.

One difference is that as of June 1, Chesley will still have a partly-functioning emergency room. At present, it’s open weekdays. Minden won’t be. And for Minden, the ER is the hospital.

Said Arran-Elderslie Mayor Steve Hammell, “We are in sympathy with our friends from Minden. We’ve lost some services; you’ve had it worse.” He remarked on the long battle both communities have had to preserve health care, and said they’ll be working with other small hospitals.

Bruce County Warden Chris Peabody, who has seen health-care services cut temporarily in Walkerton and in other area communities as well as Chesley, said, “We’ve taken a stand on this” and put money into conducting a study on the nurse shortage in the area.

MPP Chris Glover (NDP – Spadina-Fort York) was also on hand in Chesley for the Friday, May 26 press conference. He noted the NDP “has been fighting for public health care for decades.” He urged the Ford government to “reverse the decision” that was made to close the Minden ER, saying that he would have thought the government “would be doing all it could” to preserve health care, but isn’t. 

Instead, the Ford government is supporting private hospitals, while draining staff and funding from the public system.

Porzuczek said he wonders if “Minden is going to be the new normal.”

“We’re looking down the barrel of a gun,” added Bradley. The message is clear for communities with small hospitals. “Don’t wait,” he said. “Tell your (hospital) board this is not OK!”

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 02, 2023 at 07:35

This item reprinted with permission from   The Herald-Times   Walkerton, Ontario
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