A personal case for more hospital care in Muskoka, not less.
It has been quite a hectic two weeks in the Mackenzie household. Two Saturdays ago, my wife Anne took a serious fall on the ice outside our home. She landed hard on her back and right arm. It was quite the exercise getting her to our hospital as the ambulance could not get down our laneway and it took two crews with spikes on their shoes to wheel her up the driveway.
The ambulance crew was terrific, as were the doctors and nurses at the hospital. They quickly determined there was no spinal damage although Anne is still acutely aware of every muscle she has in her back. She had, however, broken her right wrist which was set and put in a cast, with instructions to see an orthopedic surgeon in Barrie to make sure that the wrist was healing properly. In the meantime, I have become Anne’s right hand which is somewhat ironic as I am left handed! I am now the carefully supervised sous chef, the valet and the chauffeur! Interesting times, indeed, but I am learning new skills! Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Now here is where it becomes interesting. We attended the fracture clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie this past Thursday. Two waiting rooms were full of patients and others were standing in the hallway or waiting in the cafeteria. It was organized chaos but efficient nonetheless. When we were able to see the doctor, it was quickly determined that the wrist was more seriously damaged than originally thought (although an orthopedic surgeon from Barrie had examined the x-rays while Anne was still in Huntsville Hospital). Surgery would be required to reset the bone and secure it with metal pins. They could not operate that day because Anne had eaten breakfast so we were sent home and told we would be called in the next day. In the meantime, she could not eat or drink after midnight.
Friday morning, we were telephoned by the hospital to say they were backed up and Anne’s surgery would not take place until early evening. She still could not eat. Late afternoon we were informed that there would be no operation on Friday but it would be scheduled on Saturday…so no eating after midnight. Saturday rolls around and we are informed that surgery is scheduled for 7:00 pm …so don’t eat or drink. We check again in the early afternoon as we wanted plenty of time to get to Barrie. We were still scheduled but they were backed up again so don’t leave home until we are called and don’t eat! And so we sit and wait. At 5:30 another phone call. The good news is that Anne can eat a light dinner as she had been deferred again, but nothing after midnight as they were planning to have her in for surgery on Sunday morning (today). We were told we would get a call from the hospital last night to confirm the time.
We got that call but not the morning surgery. She is now scheduled for 6:00 pm tonight. So no eating or drinking! I am almost afraid to answer the phone today and am taking bets as to whether we will get to the hospital at all before the day is out. Oh well, it does cut down on the grocery bill and Anne is only slightly cranky!
So why am I telling you all this? Well, through it all, I have been thinking about our hospital situation in Muskoka. It drives home for me the need for fully acute care hospital services in Muskoka, including surgery. This is not a criticism of RVH but they are clearly overloaded at least when it comes to non-elective surgery.
Parry Sound, with a permanent population of less than 7,000, has a thriving hospital complex which is bigger than both Bracebridge and Huntsville Hospitals put together. This in my view, is made possible because they offer specialties such as orthopedic surgery, which attracts patients from far and wide. It begs the question for me as to why our Muskoka hospitals could not underwrite some of their costs by doing the same?
Our District has so much to offer in terms of lifestyle, location and environment. Instead of fussing over hospital services some folks think we can do without, why would we not focus on new hospital services we could have, by attracting more physicians with specialties, who provide specific services and excellence that accommodates patients, not only in our region, but across the province?
The chaos at the Barrie hospital has opened my eyes. They cannot be all things to all people and therefore the answer to treating patients from our region who require non-elective surgery is not to ship them out where they add to an already overloaded system, but rather to ensure that we have the required facilities and qualified personnel here. Muskoka is half way between Barrie and North Bay. A regional hospital here, even one located at two acute care campuses with different specialties, would go a long way toward easing the backlog, inconvenience and strain at both North Bay and Barrie. It would also provide much better hospital service to Central Ontario.
It was good to see our Member of Parliament, Tony Clement, change his support for the Bracebridge/Huntsville Councils joint resolution, which supported one fully acute-care hospital and one ambulatory-care hospital in Muskoka. When you are in politics that is not an easy thing to do. He has now supported the position of physicians from Huntsville and some from Bracebridge, which clearly outlines why the Bracebridge/Huntsville resolution cannot work in practical terms. I have also heard that Mayor Aitchison may be rethinking hospital options and I have little doubt that we will be hearing from our MPP Norm Miller on this subject soon as well. Huntsville’s business community too, has endorsed our physician’s position on hospital care in Muskoka. This is all good news which should stimulate our community to effectively demonstrate that we can enhance accessible, affordable and innovative hospital services in Muskoka, instead of downgrading them.
In the meantime, we have heard from the Barrie hospital. Surgery is backed up once again. Maybe later tonight, maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile, don’t eat. Guess whose stomach is complaining?