On March 1, the MAHC Capital Plan Development Task Force held a Hospital Future Planning Public Meeting in which members of the public could make an oral presentation to them. There were 16 presenters. I was one of them. Here is what I told the Task Force.
Muskoka needs two full acute-care hospitals
I told the Task Force that I believed the best model for the redevelopment of our hospital was the one that maintained our two current acute-care hospitals sites. I believe that Muskoka needs two full acute-care hospitals, located where they are now; one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge. Both should have full 24/7 emergency departments, full surgical services, diagnostic imagining, obstetrics and acute-care beds. Yes, some other services would be singled sited as is done now. However, you don’t single site emergency departments, you don’t’ single site surgical services, you don’t single site diagnostic imagining and you don’t single site acute-care beds. If you do, in a few short years there will only be one acute-care hospital left in Muskoka. It may be in Huntsville, it may be in Bracebridge, but Muskoka will have only one acute-care hospital.
Why two acute care hospitals?
This will contribute to the provision of excellent healthcare in both North and South Muskoka and the surrounding areas currently using our two existing hospitals. Travel times will remain as they are now. While this redevelopment will still cost hundreds of millions of dollars, it will be significantly less than the half a billion dollars that a new single-site hospital will cost. This will result in a more realistic ask from the Province and a more affordable contribution from the community. This redevelopment will be staged, allowing for modification as health-care delivery inevitably changes. Our community can benefit sooner as the first stages of redevelopment are completed, rather than waiting 20 years before realizing any benefits. Both towns will continue to enjoy the economic benefits of having a hospital.
This is what the community will support
However, the most important reason is that this is what the community wants. This is what the community will support. Without community support the Province will be reluctant to move ahead. Without community support local councils will be hard pressed to enact the tax levies required to raise the community share. Without community support the Foundations will struggle to secure donations.
Lack of transparency
Finally I complained about the lack of transparency and community engagement in the current planning process. Task Force meetings are closed to the public. The updates following each meeting are shallow and lack substance. In the seven months since the Task Force commenced their work, this was the first real public meeting they held. In the community there is a very real concern that MAHC’s mind has already been made up and a favored redevelopment model is being advanced. That is unacceptable.
Asked the Task Force to do two things
I concluded by asking that the Task Force two things. One, that they seriously and thoroughly evaluate the two acute-care hospital model. Something it appears they have yet to do. Secondly, that they open up the process, engage the community and listen to what it wants.
It would be fair to say that the vast majority of presenters and most of the people in the audience were of a similar mind. Certainly on my first point about maintaining two acute-care hospitals in the two towns.
How did we get here?
In May 2015, after two years of planning, MAHC proposed a redevelopment model that called for a new, single hospital located between Huntsville and Bracebridge. The community clearly rejected this plan. The North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN struck a task force charged with bringing MAHC and the community together. This lead to MAHST being created. All the while MAHC continued to experience challenges in balancing its operating budget.
Now, three years later MAHST is dead. In part I believe because it failed to address the hospital redevelopment issue. The financial challenges continue for MAHC and, unbelievably, MAHC still has a single-site model as one of its possible redevelopment models. Why?
MAHC’s Board of Directors and the leadership of the Task Force need to answer this question. They need to listen to, and respect, the wishes of the community. They need to be accountable to the community. We are the users of the hospital. We are the funders of the hospital. We are the true “owners” of the hospital.
Those members of the Board and Task Force who don’t understand this, who disagree with this, who believe that only they know what the best redevelopment model is, should step aside. They should resign.
Sven Miglin was on the Board of Directors of MAHC for 6 years (2007 – 2013), two of which he was the Chair. In 2015 he was appointed to the Huntsville Hospital Retention Committee. In 2016 the NSM LHIN appointed him to the Executive Committee of MAHST (Muskoka and Area Health System Transformation) project.
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