As medical practitioners, we have seen MAHC funding cut back repeatedly to balance an already tight budget, a budget that the Minister of Health himself has acknowledged is inappropriate and inadequate. At this time, MAHC has its back against the wall. There are not millions more to be saved within MAHC and balancing the budget at this time requires such drastic changes that departmental closures are an imminent threat. It seemed that there was little we could do to support and protect acute care service delivery in our towns until just recently.
Within the past month, the Minister of Health has put forth an Action Plan, called Patients First, that seeks to closely integrate the many community services that are provincially funded, in ways that allow for regional decision making. It is felt that this will help reduce the overall cost of delivering health services, ensure that unattached patients are connected with a family doctor or nurse practitioner, and enhance access to after hours services. Recently, the North Muskoka medical community has come together cooperatively to find a way to partner with the province, through this new Patients First Action Plan, to find savings from inefficiently delivered services. As medical practitioners, we admit that we need to look at ourselves first.
The Auditor General has reported that a substantial portion of the CCAC budget is spent on administration rather than patient care. We propose the consolidation of this and all community services to be locally administrated to minimize duplication and facilitate more communication between services that now act independently. The result would be easier flow through the system for the patients as well as substantial savings.
If as little as 10% savings were to be recovered by more efficient and integrated care delivery, this would amount to as much as $5-10 million to our region. This amount is more than sufficient to correct our hospital’s operating deficit. With these savings we could reinvest in our hospitals, allowing our communities to preserve the Acute Care Services that we all rely on.
Timely access to Emergency, Surgical, Obstetrical, and Internal Medicine services are essential for protecting the health of the nearly 60,000 residents and 3 million visitors these hospitals serve annually. It’s simple – if we can keep the money we save by streamlining one area of our local budget and can reinvest those savings into Acute Care Services, then we can maintain these services in both hospitals without needing more funds from the province.
Family doctors, specialists, surgeons, nurse practitioners, nurses, and midwives in Muskoka are standing up for our patients. There has been an overwhelming response of support from Huntsville and Burk’s Falls, and we have received some support from Bracebridge as well. In particular, we’re standing up for the right to timely access to health care for those who live to the North as they have few alternatives when it comes to seeking Emergency or Acute Health Care. Any loss of these services in Huntsville will leave a gap of 180 km between Acute Care Hospitals. However, it isn’t only the distance. We all recognize the impact of weather and terrain on travel in our region. Additionally, in recognizing the large volume and importance of seasonal residents and tourists to our area, as well as proximity to national treasures like Algonquin Park, we feel this void (180km) would be more than unfortunate; it would be outright dangerous.
We have asked the Minister of Health to prevent our Acute Services from being degraded in the time that it takes to implement this restructuring. We believe that we can do this without requiring an increase in provincial funding. (See the position paper sent to the Minister here.)
The details of our proposal are available. To date, we have collected nearly 60 signatures of medical practitioners supporting this plan. We would encourage you to read the Position Paper and join our efforts to work with the District, the Municipalities, MAHC, the LHIN, and the Province to protect your health.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this increasingly important issue.
The Medical Practitioners of Muskoka