Rural emergency health care in a precarious situation

Health care in rural Ontario is in a precarious situation.  Just today, June 20th, the local regional Chesley hospital announced that it had to close its Emergency Department (ED) temporarily until the next day due to a staff shortage, and is an occurrence that has happened several times over the past few months.
In fact, the hospital was slated for full closure until residents rallied and fought against it.
In Minden (ON), the entire rural hospital emergency has been closed permanently and all emergency and in-patient services at the Minden site have been shifted to Haliburton, about 30 kilometres away.
What many don’t realize when it comes to rural medicine and emergency rooms in particular is the geographic influence – distance.  When it comes to heart attacks or stroke, minutes can make the difference.  In what are considered more ‘northern’ communities where winters can be severe and highways are closed, local emergency health care can mean life, where travel can mean … death.
In a recent communique received from the Kawartha North Family Health Team and Save Minden Emergency Room Minden Matters, groups have come together unexpectedly to bring health care to Minden and the surrounding community by opening and funding an urgent care clinic on the grounds of the former hospital.
The Ford government funding the clinic does not mitigate its responsibility for allowing the Minden emergency room to close. The closure has created a gap in health care in Minden and endangered the lives of residents experiencing medical emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes, and allergic reactions.
HHHS say they’re going to measure the impact of the Minden emergency room closure by monitoring mortality and morbidity rates. This is an admission that the HHHS knows that the closure of the Minden emergency room will kill people. 
An urgent care clinic that is only open for two days a week and does not deal with life threatening conditions is not the same as emergency room care. People need accessible, local, and immediate access to life saving emergency services. Ontarians will not accept hallway health care and 8-hour plus wait times.
The Ministry of Health has the power to keep the Minden emergency room open but allowed it to close without consultation with the Minden community. The Ford government must take immediate steps to reopen the emergency room as quickly as possible in order to save lives in our community.
Today’s announcement does not replace the dedication and lifesaving work of health care heroes at the Minden emergency room.
The local OPP, EMS, and Fire Department along with all residents, counted on the quick and accessible emergency health care of the Minden emergency room; the only emergency room centrally located between Lindsay and Huntsville. It was quick and reliable access that has now been removed for all. This is unacceptable. The Minden community and rural Ontarians do not want to be victims of the Progressive Conservative government’s privatization of our health care system.
A bandaid solution such as an urgent care clinic should not be considered a political gain by MPP Laurie Scott and the PC Party. This should be about making health care better for rural Ontarians. Together, we could rewrite history by implementing a public health care system that will be accessible to all Ontarians, including rural communities such as ours.”