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I can hear Minden’s heartbeat

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Listen to “I can hear Minden’s heartbeat”

“Hair is perhaps our most powerful symbol of individual and group identity – powerful first because it is physical and therefore extremely personal, and second because, although personal, it is public rather than private.”

Anthony Synnott, The British Journal of Sociology

Salons are “anchor” services that play an often overlooked but integral role in our social and cultural well-being. They provide residents and passersby alike with a place to gather and engage with others. They’re information hubs and have been for centuries.

Stylists usually know the details of a car accident or house fire before the papers do. We know why renovations are slow at the store down the road and why the dilapidated restaurant on the corner hasn’t been torn down yet. We have perhaps the most complete narrative of what’s going on in a township, or County, at any given time.

We help provide clients with human dignity – including recognition, validation, and a sense of belonging. We’re quasi-therapists, trusted confidants, keepers of your darkest secrets, safe spaces for conversations, and shoulders to cry on when no one else is hearing you.

Considering the magnitude of the Minden Emergency Department (ED) closing on June 1st, with only 6 weeks’ notice, it’s easy to imagine the amount of terror and trauma we’ve carried on a near-daily basis.

An important aspect to remember is that it’s “our job” to make sure our clients have excellent service but even better experiences. Our clients must leave looking and feeling better than when they walked in.

This can be the most challenging part of our careers. Our clients bleed their souls to us and, quite often, we help them through their struggles – not solely because we want them to return, but because we develop meaningful relationships and genuinely want to help them.

The closure of Minden ED has been the most challenging chapter of my professional career as a hairstylist.

With all due respect to the emotional impact of not being able to see our loved ones during the global pandemic, we faced each day with a sense that we were “all in it together.” We knew the measures would be temporary, and we’d be stronger on the other side. At least if we got sick, we had an excellent, fully staffed hospital around the corner which was a constant rock and a pillar of strength in our community.

The closure of the Minden ED had a greater impact on my emotional well-being than the global pandemic.  Let that sink in. The amount of fear, anxiety, disbelief, despair, anger, and sadness that walked through the door, client after client, was – and often still is – overwhelming.

The negativity that encompassed our town was palpable. It could be felt in the air like heavy, suffocating smoke. And there was nothing I could do except try to provide hope – hope that miracles can happen. They can, right?

The Minden ED was a key piece of the surrounding community’s social infrastructure, and its shuttering has deeply impacted the emotional and mental well-being of our community. It has affected everyone – the young and the old, the rich and the poor, and both permanent and seasonal residents.

Why was the Minden ED closed when it was fully staffed and operating like a well-oiled machine? Why were the people of Minden sacrificed? Why do nurses not want to work for Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) – particularly at the Haliburton site?

I’ve heard many thoughts and opinions over the last 10 weeks, and they all say the same thing – the closure of the Minden ED was wrong and illogical.

My clients confide in me and share their innermost fears and questions. How will someone who is living on a fixed income afford to get to Haliburton? How will they get home? Will we run out of ambulances? Can Haliburton handle the patient volume? Are these family or ER doctors? What about the opioid crisis and walk-ins for help? What will happen to these people? Will they accidentally hurt themselves or end up hurting someone else? What about people who are experiencing domestic violence?

I have spoken to hundreds of concerned citizens throughout this crisis and not even one has had their questions satisfactorily answered by HHHS regarding the closure of the Minden ED. Trust has been lost between the community and HHHS. What does this mean moving forward? How can our community rely on a governing body that doesn’t communicate with us and withholds important information?

How, as a community, do we heal from this? Certainly not through a CT scanner or a mammography machine in Haliburton.

Our elected representatives, including MPP Laurie Scott, MP Jamie Schmale, and Premier Doug Ford have abandoned us. Our community members now believe their lives hold no value — which hurts them deeply as many have (blindly) voted Progressive Conservative for generations. They feel betrayed and dismissed.

It is impossible to count how many comments I have received about Minister of Health Sylvia Jones. Many feel Jones does not understand her role or her responsibilities — some believe she is playing dumb to further her boss’s big plans.

Our Minister of Health calling the closure of the Minden ED a consolidation is an insult to the 30 years our community spent keeping that building’s doors open and saving each other’s lives. How many elected officials came to our town before, during or after the closure?

In what world is closing a hospital ever a good idea? Please, enlighten us on the benefits of our community losing its hospital. And how can HHHS, for their part, claim the closure is in our best interests if they, especially Board Chair David O’Brien, never bothered to communicate with stakeholders or the community? Hospital governance should be held in the highest regard, and unfortunately, the consensus of the community is that the HHHS Board has failed them. 

The Minden community has been fighting hard to have our voices heard. I know hundreds of people have written letters, made phone calls, attended rallies, and donated money, all to save something that we thought was guaranteed as Canadian citizens — safe, accessible healthcare.

Many in our community feel that the decisions made under Premier Ford’s leadership are undermining the quality of our healthcare. This is not a time for austerity — this is a time for building capacity to respond to the fact that our population is both aging and growing.

Do northern and rural Canadians matter? Is the government trying to squeeze all northern and rural residents into urban settings? Is the PC government creating a crisis to normalize ER closures and usher in privatized care?

When will the people of Minden be respected enough to be told the truth?  With all the unknowns, there is one clear message I have heard loud and clear throughout this crisis – the people of Minden will continue to push until they have legitimate answers. They will not stop until those who are responsible for the erroneous and unforgivable decision to close the Minden ED are held accountable, and emergency care is returned to the hospital.

From my perspective, the people of Minden and surrounding areas need to be represented in an audience with HHHS Board Chair David O’Brien in an effort to hold the Board, through its Chair, accountable for its decision-making process before, during, and after the closure of the Minden ED.

Aurora McGinn