Listen Up! I filled out the hospital survey and this is what I said …


Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

A Wake Up Call

“Oh no”, quipped a friend of mine when I said I was going to write another column about the hospital situation in Muskoka, “aren’t people getting tired of all that?” There may be some truth here, but I think I understand the apathy.

I have been increasingly despondent about the apparent lack of public interest concerning the delivery of acute care hospital services in Muskoka. Remember the days, just a few short years ago, when the S.O.S. Campaign (Save Our Services) was in full flight? People crowded the sidewalks waving signs. Letters, editorials and political speeches were rampant. We were not going to let this happen. There was no way Huntsville or Bracebridge would lose its acute care hospital facility. It was a heady time of activism but sadly, that is no more.

So much has changed since then and yet, nothing has really been accomplished. In the past two and a half years, no less than six committees have been formed to come to grips with the delivery of hospital services in Muskoka. None of them, in spite of their good intentions, have significantly moved the matter forward. People are being systematically and bureaucratically beaten down, with a myriad of Committees, Boards and Acronyms, to the point where no one knows who is who, or what is really going on. They don’t know what or where to protest any more because they have no idea who has the ball. After all the positioning, all the bureaucracy, all the money and all the posturing, there is no clear path to solving the health care issues in Muskoka related to the local delivery of acute care services. It is no wonder that many people have become discouraged and apathetic. The time has arrived however, to wake up!

Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC) has struck a special committee, called innocently enough, The Capital Plan Development Committee. Its membership includes MAHC Board members, politicians, health care providers and members of the public. Its mandate is to consult widely with the community and then make recommendations to the Hospital Board as to how future acute care services could be delivered in Muskoka. They are backed directly by the Province, who put a million dollars on the table to make it happen. Although MAHC still has a motion on their books, recommending a single-site hospital in Muskoka, they maintain that all options remain on the table as this latest consultation takes place. If true, that in itself, is a small step forward. Although there are still road blocks in a number of places, this committee may well be the light at the end of the tunnel.

For one thing, unlike many of the other efforts, the Capital Plan Development Committee is focused on one issue and one issue only and that is the future of the delivery of hospital services in Muskoka and area. Coordinating with other health care agencies is not part of their mandate. For another, this committee lacks much of the bureaucracy that has overburdened some of the other structures that were put in place to resolve health-care issues in Muskoka.

In addition to public consultation meetings that have not been particularly well attended, The Capital Plan Development Committee has launched a survey, available online to all who wish to access it. It is not a perfect survey but it is vitally important to respond to it. It is equally important to recognize that the survey is somewhat flawed.

The survey does not provide an option for two, full service, acute care sites in Muskoka. Instead, it includes an option they call ‘two sites (non status quo)”. In an recently published open letter, by Dave Wilken and Ross Maun, Huntsville residents and former MAHC Board members, one who resigned in frustration and the other who was fired, what this means is explained.

“The two site hospital option described as ‘non status quo’ is likely not what many people want in maintaining two full service acute care sites in Muskoka. The authors of the survey have skewed the option by stating the need for continued consolidation of patient programs and services across two existing sites to drive cost savings. This is a direct consequence of budget deficits caused by the Ministry of Health’s hospital funding formula being geared to large and small hospitals, but impossible for the mid range hospitals throughout Ontario, including our own.”

Not withstanding its flaws, I believe it is important to complete the survey. There is plenty of room for comments which allows for views to be conveyed to the committee that are not  directly covered in the survey. Here are the ones that were important to me when I filled it out.

  • We need a funding formula that allows two full service acute care sites in Muskoka.
  • Failing that, I would support two acute care sites, each with surgical, emergency and ICU facilities but with different specialties or patient programs, in a manner that one hospital would not be subordinate to the other.
  • A single site hospital between the two communities is not practical and would be the regretful second choice for both Bracebridge and Huntsville. There are strong arguments for Huntsville should the single site option be forced upon us. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

My greatest fear is that when it does come to where acute care hospital services will be delivered in Muskoka, we may be doomed by apathy or a sense of hopelessness. With the Capital Plan Development Committee, however imperfect its process may be, we have an opportunity to make a difference and we should take it. We should make our voices heard like we did a few years ago. A good start would be to complete the survey along with your own views. You can find it here.

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  1. I feel like it might come to the same thing as the fight about the pipeman we do survey after survey for these things and get ignored . I dont want the hospital to leave huntsville anyone who does is not thinking right im sure , now thats my opinion. Why is it as tax payers and voters no matter what we say we are being ignored. This shouldnt be happening. Why wouldnt the people who live here be full of apathy with the way things have been going lately?

    • I totally agree Wendy Brown
      I also agree with the points at the end of the article
      “We need the funding formula that allows two full service acute care sites in Muskoka”
      I can understand the apathy, I feel it myself.
      They didn’t listen a few years ago, are they really going to listen this time
      I guess time will tell.

  2. I have completed the survey but must admit I am more than totally confused by all that is and is not happening. To make matters worse else where on Doppler I read that the LHIN has recently (within last few months) had their “mandate changed”. What does that mean?

  3. Irena Van Hoof on

    This area is growing. We need 2 hospitals. I can see each doing different elective services but we need a hospital in each community for emergency and acute care.

  4. Good points, Huge, as usual. I think the apathy can be summed up in one quote from your article…. “Although MAHC still has a motion on their books, recommending a single-site hospital in Muskoka”. No matter what input is received from the residents, it has been ignored and another study, group or commission is enlisted. When are these board members going to get the message that their delays and rewriting of THEIR preferences are NOT acceptable to the people they represent? The input from Dave Wilken and Ross Maun would have been very valuable, but MAHC was successful in making short work of them, weren’t they! In my opinion, MAHC board members are manipulative and disgraceful, and if anyone needs to be let go, it is them, unless they can realize that they are not the dictatorship they seem to want to be. Input from qualified people is needed and should be respected, not eliminated because of delays and disagreements. We have stood for this nonsense long enough and while I, too, feel a bit of the apathy, my anger is still high on the amount of power that these figureheads are continually shoving down our throats. Numerous past comments and published statements from them clearly indicate to me that we need to replace them with more qualified and forward thinking problem solvers, willing to debate, adjust their views as needed, and most importantly be able to SOLVE this issue with the input received from the residents. (Emphasis on the word “qualified”). Sadly, they do not seem to be able to do this without throwing curves into the mix.

  5. J. R. Bruce Cassie on

    Nobody has articulated my feelings about the Hospital Debate as well as Hugh McKenzie has. Thank you, Hugh, for stating what so many of us are feeling.

    1. YES: We need a funding formula that allows two full service acute care sites in Muskoka.

    2. YES: Failing that, I would support two acute care sites, each with surgical, emergency and ICU facilities but with different specialties or patient programs, in a manner that one hospital would not be subordinate to the other.

    3. YES: A single site hospital between the two communities is not practical and would be the regretful second choice for both Bracebridge and Huntsville.

    If we don’t stand for what we want and what we will support, others from elsewhere will decide for us… and I am still of the opinion that the decision is yet to be made… and we need to weigh in.

    • Well said, maybe if the survey questions were that direct more people would fill it out. Can we submit these comments as survey answers? Maybe Premier Wynne should take an ambulance ride from Algonquin Park to the hospital, Huntsville is closest oh wait she closed that lets drive another 1/2 hour to Bracebridge.

  6. Kathy henderson on

    I agree with all the comments posted to date. I think the people don’t believe their input will matter or be heard. This whole thing makes me feel sick. We need a hospital and Bracebridge needs a hospital. I can see splitting some of the services.

  7. Peter Rhead, Bracebridge on

    Thanks to Hugh MacKenzie for a lively and needed commentary of MAHC two-hospital debate. He hit the rich vein when he said most are caught up in apathy. I certainly am amongst that group because i feel bogged down in a quagmire. I want our medical professionals to work with our politicians for the best solution and I will accept it. I am not a survey advocate!

  8. We definitely need two hospitals.
    With the area growing and the number of people who are moving into the both permanent and seasonal plus the fact that we have a huge vacationing population the system is overloaded. What we need to have is it better system that will be able to look after the needs of the people that are here. What we don’t need is a single Hospital in a centralized location and high-paid executives who complain that they are not making enough money

  9. Well said, Hugh.
    I would like to suggest a few reasons why we are being ignored.
    1. The LHIN is not an elected body and does not have to be responsive to the voters/taxpayers. The LHIN was created by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care created the funding formula that we don’t think is fair.
    2. The LHIN is called the Simcoe Muskoka LHIN and the biggest portion of it lies south of Huntsville and Bracebridge. The LHIN concerns itself with providing services to those that fall within their LHIN boundaries.
    3. There is no Huntsville hospital or Bracebridge hospital to save. That horse left the barn years ago when we amalgamated. This is not just semantics. It makes a huge difference to the composition of the board, the administration and the decision-making process.
    4. Despite the consultants, committees, meetings, and discussions, we still don’t have any details, such as where a single-sited acute care centre would be located or, if a new single-sited centre was built, whether emergency outlets would be kept at the old buildings in order to stabilize a patient if necessary before sending, or what are the pros and cons to each option etc. How can people make an intelligent decision without this information?
    5. We the public (both Huntsville and Bracebridge) are not all on the same page, speaking with one voice as to what we Do want, what we insist must be on the table and what is negotiable.
    6. The powers that be (hospital/government) are not being honest and clear about what is possible/financially viable and why they favour a certain path. It is as if they do not trust our ability to comprehend the issues and make a decision favourable to all.

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