An impressive group of community leaders from all walks of life has come together at the mayor’s calling, tasked with coming up with a plan and recommending a location for a sustainable acute care hospital in Huntsville.
Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison said he came up with the group following extensive conversations and consultations with community as well as council members.
From medical and business backgrounds, to developers, former members of the hospital board and community activists, the mayor is hoping the group will be able to demonstrate that Huntsville is an indispensable location for a 24/7 acute care hospital.
“My goal for this group is to have a dispassionate, as unbiased as possible, review of data so that we have a report that we can then use to lobby whoever we need to lobby to ensure we have a hospital in Huntsville,” he said. “I can spend lots of money on consultants and lobbyists like (former mayor Hugh) Mackenzie was and achieve nothing because I’m not backed up by facts and data. So that’s their job, they will be doing a thorough analysis of that data so that any lobbying that we do engage in will be based on fact and data as opposed to impassioned pleas.”
Aitchison was responding to criticism by Mackenzie in one of his blogs, stating that faster leadership is required by Huntsville council to try and retain the hospital in the community. Mackenzie was reacting to a recommendation made by the board of Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, which governs both hospitals, on May 27 for a one hospital model rather than the existing two.
The District Municipality of Muskoka has also put together a working group to study the impact of single-siting one hospital for the area instead of the existing hospitals in Huntsville and Bracebridge.
Aitchison said the approach of Huntsville’s hospital group will be different than that of the District Municipality of Muskoka’s group.
“Their biggest concern I think really is what the cost implications to the District are if in fact the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) and the province adopt this proposal to build a hospital on a greenfield site, let’s say in Port Sydney. There’s obviously implication for the District in terms of probably some servicing costs… and what that means in terms of planning and whether they recommend we create a whole new urban centre.“
Huntsville’s hospital working group is expected to communicate with council regularly and make recommendations to council on what it can do in the short-term to further its cause, said Aitchison, who has given the group until end of year to come up with a report.
While the members are volunteers, Aitchison said the municipality would lend all its support to the group.
Huntsville’s hospital working group is comprised of eight members made up of Rob Alexander – who is serving as its chair – Elizabeth Boucher, Mike Harrower, Les Keay, Dr. David Matthies, Sven Miglin, Tom Pinckard and Beth Ward.
The group met for the first time on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.