Once again, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, (MAHC) has shown how much they really care when it comes to providing equal health care services to the people of North Muskoka and East Parry Sound.
Over the past decade or so, only huge public and political pressure from folks in Huntsville and surrounding areas has prevented important health care services being removed from our community.
Do you remember when there was a push to centre all obstetric services in Bracebridge? More recently there was the former acting medical chief of staff for MAHC, who publicly said there should only be one door for surgery in Muskoka and that door should be in Bracebridge. The new medical chief of staff for MAHC lives in Orillia and we have no idea what he thinks.
Then, of course, there was the whole debacle of whether or not there would be two acute care hospitals in Muskoka, MAHC at first considering a single site or only one acute care hospital with the other reverting to ambulatory and geriatric care. They only backed off after substantial public anger and concern forced them to reconsider.
And now MAHC is at it again, making the ridiculous and potentially dangerous decision to close, as of August 28, the COVID-19 assessment centre in Huntsville and centring this vital, however temporary, service only out of Bracebridge.
Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano is livid about this, and in a letter to the chair and CEO of MAHC, a copy of which has been obtained by Doppler, she reflects her concern and that of Huntsville Council in the strongest possible terms about the decision to close the COVID-19 assessment centre here, and the total lack of consultation with the Town before doing so. In part, she says this:
“…your unilateral decision to close the COVID-19 Test Centre in Huntsville…is entirely unacceptable and leaves our community and those to the north and east of us vulnerable and potentially unsafe during the current pandemic. This is particularly so when children in our community are going back to school on September 8th and when Provincial health officials are concerned about a surge in the COVID-19 virus this Fall.”
The mayor and Huntsville Council are exactly right.
In my view, the decision made by MAHC officials to close the COVID-19 assessment centre in Huntsville, and the manner in which they went about it, was totally irresponsible.
Rapid testing to monitor and control the curve of COVID-19 is highly encouraged by health care experts and local accessibility where people, especially young people and seniors, do not have to travel miles to receive this important service—and therefore may not do so—is critically important.
MAHC officials have stated that the decision to locate the assessment centre just in Bracebridge is only because of a lack of staff and resources. I wonder. I somewhat understand the staffing issue because the federal government’s CERB program is encouraging people to stay home and not work. But as Mayor Terziano has pointed out, both the federal and provincial governments are pouring money into resources for issues related to the pandemic and there has to be a way for MAHC to access these to keep locally accessible testing available.
It is also hard to understand why the folks at MAHC have kept Town officials totally out of the loop when deciding about the future of the COVID-19 assessment centre in Huntsville, an issue that directly and adversely affects the people whom they represent. It is clear that they have been contemplating it for weeks and even though there have been frequent update meetings at which both MAHC and Huntsville officials were present, nary a peep about what was being plotted. To me, this smacks of deception.
That is why another part of Mayor Terziano’s letter to MAHC is important, when she says this:
“As you are aware, residents of Huntsville and East Parry Sound have had reservations over the past several years concerning the depth of MAHC’s commitment to an acute care hospital in this community. This most recent decision to close an important health care facility in Huntsville during a time of crisis only increases that concern. Is this decision simply one more thrust in ‘death by a thousand cuts’ when it comes to health care services in Huntsville?”
Again, dead on the money.
Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare needs to reverse its decision to close the COVID-19 assessmwnt centre in Huntsville and they need to do it immediately. It puts people in our community at risk, it demonstrates a lack of equity in the provision of this vital service during a pandemic, and it undermines the confidence in people from North Muskoka and East Parry Sound that MAHC is really fighting for two acute care hospitals in Muskoka.
If MAHC will not reverse this decision, then we need another call to action as we had in relation to the hospitals a few years ago. During this virus crisis, as at all other times, we deserve the same attention and the same services as any other community.
We know where our municipal leaders stand in relation to closing the COVID-19 assessment centre in Huntsville. We need to know where our District and provincial leaders stand. In fairness, I understand that our MPP Norm Miller has indicated he would like to help.
That would be greatly appreciated.
Hugh Mackenzie[Read Mayor Terziano’s letter to MAHC here (PDF).]
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