Yesterday’s announcement from Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) that Muskoka’s only COVID-19 assessment centre will be located in Bracebridge after August 28 is not sitting well with Mayor Karin Terziano and members of Huntsville Council.
“[I’ve] certainly relayed our displeasure with that decision,” said Terziano during today’s general committee meeting. “We met with [MAHC] yesterday and tried to find a way to have one in Huntsville. There seems to be no way to have one in Huntsville. At this point we are working with the District to see if we can get some paramedic drive-through testing or maybe even inside testing as the weather turns on us.”
Update August 27: Jeff McWilliam, chief, paramedic services and emergency planning for the District, said in an email to Huntsville Doppler that “The District of Muskoka, through Muskoka Paramedic Services, will continue to deliver community testing into the fall, in collaboration with MAHC and the Family Health Teams, while we explore alternative year-round testing delivery options.” Paramedics have been conducting drive-through testing at locations throughout Muskoka since late June.
Terziano expressed concern about residents who “just don’t have access to travel to Bracebridge if they need a COVID test. We have…senior people who have spouses in old age homes and they need to be tested to visit their loved ones. If they have to get to Bracebridge to get a test to do that, it’s not very convenient.”
Councillor Tim Withey called the decision “outrageous”, particularly giving that it coincides with the start of the school year and leading into flu season. “I think we’ve got to really push against this decision at the highest levels, right up to the premier if we have to. The whole push is for more testing and to make this decision is outrageous.”
Mayor Terziano said the issue boils down to staffing, and said that in a meeting with MAHC she was told that “if their staffing model becomes worse they will not run one in Bracebridge either. They are looking for decentralized test centres and I’m not sure how close they think close enough is for us right now. It’s most definitely a problem for our community and certainly the communities to the north of us and the east of us. We are going to keep pushing for at least paramedic coverage here until we can get somebody from the province to weigh in on this.”
The possibility of two part-time centres, one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge, was raised, she added, but “they said no, they couldn’t cross staff over between the two sites. We even said we would provide the space at no cost to them. They say it’s not a dollar and cents issue, it’s strictly staffing and there seems to be no real willingness to explore it further.”
Councillor Jason FitzGerald asked about the continuation of drive-through testing by community paramedics.
“At District we passed a resolution last month to continue with the drive-through testing to the end of the year,” replied Terziano, “but their problem is going to be of location now as well. We are working with the District on that and anything we can do, obviously, as a municipality we are going to do to provide that.”
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe suggested reaching out to municipalities to the north of Huntsville who are also impacted by this decision to present a united front, while Councillor Thompson suggested that MP Scott Aitchison could speak with the premier about the matter.
In the meantime, Terziano suggested that residents who have concerns about the model should contact MPP Norm Miller’s office to complain.
This post was updated on August 27 to include comment from Jeff McWilliam, chief, paramedic services and emergency planning for the District of Muskoka.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!