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Huntsville Council is expected to delve into the hospital issue some more at its March 29 meeting and revisit a unanimous resolution it passed in conjunction with the Town of Bracebridge at a joint Council meeting held at the Algonquin Theatre on February 1.
The joint resolution was a direct response to the position put forth by the Board of Muskoka Algonquin Health Care, which administers both the Huntsville and Bracebridge hospitals, calling for the closure of both hospitals in exchange for a brand new centrally located one for the area. Instead, the municipalities came out with a joint resolution which called for maintaining a two-hospital model with emergency rooms at both hospitals, albeit with a different configuration of services offered at each one. The gist of it pointed at one hospital becoming site A and offering the bulk of acute care services and in-patient surgical procedures while the other, Site B, would be more oriented towards the provision of chronic care services.
About 60 medical practitioners join together to make a statement
News of that resolution did not fly with the medical community, especially in northern Muskoka. They expressed concern with the idea of becoming the hospital that would lose its acute care capacity. They maintain there are ways to find greater efficiencies within the funding envelope for health care in the area, without losing vital services at any one hospital. See their statement and letter to the Minister of Health here.
In response to their concerns, also shared by Huntsville’s neighbouring municipalities which depend on the Huntsville hospital, as well as members of the business community here, Huntsville is expected to revisit its stated position.
“It was an unintended consequence of our joint Council meeting where we talked about site A, site B,” said Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison of the response. He also noted that the resolution was “one step in a much longer journey.”
The fact that it has lit a fire under the doctors in Huntsville and North Muskoka is fantastic. It’s the greatest news in all of this process. It’s made MAHC sit up and take notice as well. I didn’t mean to scare them, if that’s what happened. But in some ways I’m glad they were scared because they’ve come to the table. Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison
LHIN task force meeting the best so far, says mayor
Aitchison was at the last Muskoka Health Care Task Force meeting held in Bracebridge to discuss the issue. The task force was initiated by the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) which distributes provincial health care dollars to the area and advises the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. It set up the task force, comprised of MAHC and municipal representatives, in order to find a consensus in the community on how to address the hospitals’ financial troubles.
Aitchison said the meeting held March 3 was much more congenial in tone.
“Everybody was sort of talking about the same thing finally. MAHC seemed to want to be a partner in finding a broader solution not just to their issues but to look at the whole picture to find a solution to the funding crisis they’re facing,” he said.
Huntsville Council to incorporate input from medical community in their stance
“The next step obviously is that I think Council will probably have some discussion about what happened and probably pass a new resolution more in line with what the doctors have talked about and sort of the broader picture fix.”
He said the resolution will also have to speak to short-term funding issues and the potential for single siting surgeries in Bracebridge. “We need to send a very strong and clear message to the Province that we’re quite simply opposed to that… which again is all part and parcel of what the doctors are talking about. What they said is the Ministry needs to fund our hospital as it is, even though it doesn’t meet the sustainability bench marks in the existing funding formula, for a couple of years while we get this transition done.”
Aitchison said the medical practitioners coming on board to work on a made-in-Muskoka solution to a funding formula that does not work for this area, adds huge credence to the idea that a solution could be piloted here. A solution, he said, that could be applied to other regions in the province facing similar funding issues under Ontario’s current funding formula.
“The Minister has acknowledged to us as well that he knows that the funding formula unfairly penalizes Muskoka Algonquin Health Care. At the time, a year ago, I think it was five other hospitals (that were adversely impacted) and I think it’s more now. So it makes sense in the big cities but it doesn’t make sense in smaller urban communities like Huntsville.”
Click on the links below for related stories.
Councillor Thompson reports on Monday’s meeting with the Health Minister
Losing acute care at Huntsville Hospital would result in hospital’s closure: Perry Council
Mayors get unanimous support from their councils for a two-hospital model