Why does the hospital redevelopment task force continue to work at odds with the wishes of the community? ~ Sven Miglin


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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  1. Paul Johnson on

    Thanks Sven for your continuing commitment to this critical issue!
    Most of us are overwhelmed by the jargon and snail’s pace momentum of this process. What we do clearly understand, at a gut level, is the absolute need for a hospital in Huntsville.
    Thanks for clearly articlating the needs of our community and reminding us all of what is required to make this happen!
    Meanwhile, let’s remember that we all need to show our commitment to our hospital by annually contributing what we can to the hospital Foundation.

  2. Brian Tapley on

    Well said Sven!
    The area to be serviced is vast in this case, reaching far to the north and out into Algonquin Park to the east. One hospital will be had pressed to serve this area in a timely manner.
    The key point is that two hospitals is what the people who use them wish to see and if this is the solution we might all be amazed at the fund raising ability of the community. A sense of ownership, of having been listened to, can go a very long way.
    Last, is to remember that a small town like Huntsville or Bracebridge lives and is a “town” by virtue of several key items. One of these is a hospital. A high school is another for example and without key features like these the town gradually will fade to nothing much more than a subdivision of homes servicing a center that does have these key features.
    I could go on and on with other features but Sven has said it and said it better.

  3. I know this is a very serious issue … but cost must be taken into account and the future of the area. I believe the government is trying to tell us they can not and will not support two small hospitals because of lack of space for expansion for upgrades, new services, the cost of duplicate services etc etc. The issues do not go away with the 2 hospital solution and it will be same old same old with a 2 hospital solution! We must think of the future and not be stuck in the past. We need and deserve a new hospital serving the entire area in a central location with the latest new services and technology. I can not see the government spending money / maintenance on 2 antiquated hospitals.

    • Peter R. Dirks on

      We live in a new era of technology. No Hospital can provide all the requirements for supporting our health. The Ministry of Health Is responsible to provide this. They should have a plan for the Province how all the services are given and determine priorities for each Hospital function.

      You can not have a slush fund for every Hospital, a 14% budget carried by the volunteers without the approval of the Ministry of Health. The population density plays a large role in the present and future.

    • With all due respect, Bob, a new hospital in Port Sydney is not going to happen because there are no services there and the cost of putting them in place would be enormous. This is due, at least in part, because the cost of running water and sewer lines through our picturesque close-to-the-surface bedrock, multiplies the already high cost of running them. And it still does nothing for those who count on a local hospital in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge. It is unreasonable to ask those in the northern area of the LHIN to travel 50 to 60 kilometers to an emergency room. It is clear that the people are not going to support the one-hospital option. I would invite you to read of the experiences of Bobbie Dyment and her husband in Grimsby below. The people of Grimsby were treated very badly by the highly-paid bureaucrats who treated them in an ugly way.

  4. Stan and Nancy Muntz on

    Sven – my wife and I agree wholeheartedly with you. We should maintain our two site hospital. We have put our wishes in the Doppler before – but to no avail. We, like you, cannot understand why the government or the board is not listening to the wishes of the population. It’s like banging our heads against the wall. I applaud you for your presentation and agree with every point.

    Where is the transparancy? Where is the support from our politicians. They do not understand the needs of our population. The growth in seniors is staggering. And why not, that’s why we moved to Muskoka. Jobs and healthcare and affordable housing, at the time, is why we moved to Huntsville in 1991.

    There is no infrastructure set between Bracebridge and Huntsville. My wife no longer drives. How is she supposed to get me to the hospital when I have my heart attack if it is in between our towns. The government is signing away our lives. Are they going to reimburse us for our trips to the hospital, or worse, to the cost of my funeral because my wife can’t get me to a hospital when I need?

    They treat us as ignorant children when they won’t be up front about things. They wouldn’t know what transparency is if it hit them in their faces.

    Yes, we are annoyed. And we’re fed up.

    Our doctors, nursing staff, hospital staff, admin. staff, etc. are all doing a great job. Stop complaining about what we don’t have and be thankful for what we do have. We don’t need a brand new state of the art hospital – not at the risk of lives.

    Keep your spirits up Sven. Most of us are with you.

  5. Bobbie Dyment on

    My husband and I relocated last Fall from Grimsby to Huntsville (love it here BTW! ) and we’re trying to get a feel for this “hospital” conflict and frustration. To back up a bit … Grimsby’s West Lincoln Memorial Hospital which was built in 1949 is in such a state of disrepair and walls, which are crumbling, are filled with asbestos. The community raised over $14 million with private donations, community fundraising, local business, and mandated hospital employee payroll deductions on the promise the provincial gov’t. under Dalton McGuinty, would break ground in 2007. Three candlelight community vigils later, Deb Matthews cancelled our new hospital in June 2011. In the meantime, Hamilton Health Sciences CEO, McIsaac, collects a salary exceeding $750,000.00 annually! He is only one of a dozen over paid bureaucrats inflicting THEIR decision over a community fighting for its rightful health care availability. To summarize: Grimsby/Lincoln/Niagara is a Conservative region as is Muskoka/Parry Sound. The Liberal government is/has been punishing us. This is SO political and I’ll close with my “Hurrah” for Doug Ford. Feel positive change is upon us.

    • As usual, the bureaucrats are pigging out at the public trough, through the granted, enormous salaries, while the people are left feeling as though their tax dollars are not being directed to the point of real need in the communities. It is utterly outrageous that a health bureaucrat in Hamilton is receiving $750,000 per year–and that amounts to the entire increase in our whole hospital budget for this year! Whatever happened to the notion of public SERVICE? Those who try to make excuses for those enormous salaries whine, “Well, in the private sector, they would be making as much.” I say, then let them go and get a job in the private sector! We are being hosed.

  6. Tom Holinshead on

    Another source for support and assistance is the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. This is an issue that they are fighting all across the province. Very powerful organization to which I belong and serve as a Board Member locally.

  7. I asked Ms. Bubela, after a presentation at our Probus Club meeting, why the model of “one hospital” was still part of their screen presentation when it was certainly obvious from the meeting at the District Chambers that if they were truly listening, it should be dropped from any further consideration. Her answer was that the Provincial Health Ministry would not allow them to drop that model in spite of them asking to do so based on public opinion. If this is true, then we should all be writing to our local MPP and the Premier and demanding this decision be overruled and the task force be allowed to base its decision on this overwhelming public support for the two acute care hospitals model that isn’t officially being discussed.

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