It’s been over a week since Huntsville Council passed a resolution asking the Minister of Health to dismiss the Board of Directors of Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC).
Community members packed the Algonquin Theatre on April 23 when the motion was passed. Many expressed fear of losing one of Muskoka’s two acute care hospitals, which service very different parts of the region.
In a surprise move, citing mistrust in the board of MAHC and wondering whether moving to a single hospital model has been its plan all along, Council passed a resolution asking the Health Minister to dismiss the board.
I think it demonstrates the frustration that Huntsville and area have been feeling about not being listened to and the frustration that the one-site proposal is still on the docket. I know that in the southern part of the riding the Mayor of Bracebridge has a different approach, but I think it’s been effective in terms of raising a lot of awareness.Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller
Two days later, Miller presented a motion at Queen’s Park asking the Province to launch an immediate review of the hospital funding formula.
Miller said his motion has led to conversations and the sharing of information among rural communities with medium-sized hospitals facing similar issues due to an inadequate funding formula, passed in 2012. He was provided with a report compiled by Headwater Health Care Centre in Orangeville, showing that there are 19 other hospitals struggling in a similar manner—most of which he said are coincidentally represented by Conservative Members of Provincial Parliament.
“If we’re going to have hospitals in places like Muskoka or Orangeville or Brockville, then we need to support them so that they’re able to provide the services that are needed,” said Miller, who has also presented over 4,000 petitions to Queen’s Park urging the Province to maintain two acute care hospitals here. He said the petitions are signed by people mainly in Huntsville and places like Burk’s Falls, Magnetawan, Sundridge, South River and Kearney. He said more petitions are on the way because “people are really concerned about maintaining two hospitals, so every day these days I’m presenting petitions in the Legislature. I think all these initiatives are important to raise awareness that our hospitals are really important to people and they’re not adequately being funded to provide all the services that are desired and needed in our communities.”
The Chair of the board of MAHC has not spoken publicly since a majority of Huntsville councillors passed the resolution asking the Health Minister to dismiss the board. In a written statement to Doppler, Evelyn Brown said, “It is unfortunate and disappointing that Huntsville Town Council has passed the motion despite our Board’s commitment to work together and collaboratively seek the best solution to our challenges. The Board of Directors are local volunteers who play a leadership role in setting priorities and visioning for MAHC to support high-quality, safe patient care for the communities we serve. The Board remains committed to ensuring a fair and objective future planning process by the Capital Plan Development Task Force inclusive of stakeholder engagement.”
The North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (NSM LHIN), one of 14 Crown agencies that reports to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and plans, integrates and funds local health services, including hospitals on behalf of the Ministry, said it continues to work in partnership with the hospital board and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to address MAHC’s funding challenges.
“The NSM LHIN respects that MAHC’s Board has structured, and continues to follow, a comprehensive capital planning process as per the capital planning guidelines – known as the MOHLTC-LHIN Joint Review Framework for Capital Planning. MAHC keeps the LHIN updated on their work,” NSM LHIN Director of Communication Kathleen Bain said in a written statement.
Bain also stated that the LHIN “has an oversight role with the financial health and accountability of all the providers it funds. All Boards are expected to adopt and demonstrate sound legal governance and financial management policies. We hold service accountability agreements with each provider we fund, and resolution steps are outlined in that agreement (available on the LHIN’s website at www.nsmlhin.on.ca); likewise, the LHIN holds an accountability agreement with the MOHLTC (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care).”
In terms of the 2012 funding formula, Bain stated that, “Health System Funding Reform is activity-based funding rather than global funding. The provincial funding formula uses a multifaceted and patient-focused approach. The funding model has been adjusted in past years to increase equity in funding. A working group with members from the Ministry of Health, the Ontario Hospital Association, LHINs and hospitals continues to assess the impact of the funding formula on hospitals and make recommendations for changes to the formula.”
Asked about Huntsville Council’s April 23 resolution, Bain stated: “We see the MAHC Board as skills-based and following good governance practices. We support them in their endeavours on behalf of the people living in the communities they serve. The NSM LHIN has informed the MOHLTC of the resolution.”
A statement from Ontario Health Minister Helena Jaczek’s office indicated the Minister has not yet received notice from council on their resolution.
“We have not yet heard directly from the municipality at this time. We are still awaiting formal notice of this matter to the Minister so that the issue can be considered, and our local health partners can be supported,” read a written statement issued by the Minister’s Press Secretary, Laura Gallant.
Miller does not think much will happen before the June 7 provincial election and said hospital funding and whether Muskoka will be able to keep its two hospitals has become an election issue.
“I think it definitely will be an election issue and there’s really only a week and a half, two weeks that the Legislature’s still in session, so I would suspect… that real concrete action will happen after the next election.”
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