Hundreds gathered at the Save the Durham Hospital rally on May 21. (Photo submitted by Jana Wight)

West Grey Mayor says lawsuit coming over Durham hospital

The Municipality of West Grey has announced it will be taking the fight to preserve the Durham hospital to the courtroom.

The South Bruce Grey Health Centre said it will be removing 10 inpatient beds from the hospital next month, after previously announcing it would eliminate overnight emergency department hours.

At a media conference at Queens Park Thursday, West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles said the municipality has retained a well-known legal firm from downtown Toronto that will be filing a lawsuit with the courts in the next few days.

"It seems like this is how we're going to be able to negotiate," he said. "It's certainly not the way we that we want to, but here we are. We'll go at it and attack it, because we've tried everything we can about negotiation, conversation; that's not working. So now going to go the legal route."

While Eccles couldn't get into the details of the suit, he said it would put the board's decision, which was made without community consultation, under a microscope. He suggested the board has gone rogue.

"We have a Ministry (of Health) that is saying 'It's local decisions with local input, this is why we're closing some of these rural hospitals.' In our case, there was no local input, we were just blindsided by this," he said. "So the Ministry has a mandate to supply (healthcare) and yet here we are, with a board they have put into place that's randomly — from their explanation — doing whatever they want."

Eccles alleged the board was using questionable tactics when wording these decisions, to sidestep oversight.

"What I understand is, by using the word 'transition' that doesn't get to the point where it goes to the Ministry. If those beds were to be moved and closed, then, regulation does stipulate the Minister has to step in and approve that. But by using the word transition indefinitely, the board I believe has overstepped and is using strange language to try and explain what they're doing."

He also alleged that hospital management ignored efforts by staff to come up with a schedule that would incorporate holiday requests and still keep the facility open to Thanksgiving.

At the media conference, representatives of the Ontario Health Coalition, Ontario Nurses Association, and Ontario Public Service Employees Union all called out the Ford government for underfunding public health care, drawing comparisons to the closure of Minden's hospital to what's currently happening.

"There are two levels of decision makers that are responsible and could stop the hospital closure if they chose: the hospital board and the Ford government," said Natalie Mehra, Ontario Health Coalition executive director. "Neither has any mandate. No one anywhere voted to close their local hospitals. Previous governments have intervened, found staffing and kept the local hospitals open. The Ford government can — and must — declare a moratorium on hospital closures effective immediately."

Eccles said last week the community submitted a petition to the Ontario Legislature through Liberal MPP Adil Shamji, after a request to have local Conservative MPP Rick Byers introduce it was denied.

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