It began with a simple message. While June Tebby was scrolling through Facebook and reading about the uncertain future of Muskoka’s hospitals, the phrase, ‘listen to the people, MAHC’ entered her thoughts. She liked how it sounded—simple yet powerful—and decided it would be a good message to share. She texted her friend, Ruby Truax, who thought it was a great idea for a Facebook group.
Just 24 hours after it launched, the group “Listen to the People, MAHC!” had more than 1,000 members and within 72 hours it had exceeded 2,700.
The people, it seems, want to be heard.
“It was the message people want to send to MAHC (Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare) and it was an easy way to do it,” says Tebby.
But more than that, they want to share their stories. When the group launched, Tebby asked members to share those five words: Listen to the people, MAHC! And they did. But soon they began sharing their stories, opinions, and ideas, too.
Tebby’s story is that her husband, Jim, who passed away four years ago, was sick for 15 years and was frequently in and out of Huntsville Hospital. Almost always, though, they were met by familiar faces.
“Continuity was very important to both Jim and I. We knew the doctors and the other staff by name,” says Tebby. “If I’d take him to emerg, they’d say, ‘Hey, Jim, what are you doing back here?’ He never wanted to go to the hospital but once we got there and he got in that environment where people called him by name and were trying to help him, he settled down and it brought him peace. He felt more comfortable, he felt safe. Patients want to know who’s looking after them.”
Tebby worries that sort of personal touch would be lost in a single-site hospital. Others fear that the extra travel time it would take to get to a new, more central hospital location will result in a higher rate of patient deaths.
“We live in Sundridge, and if we call an ambulance, we are already looking at the ‘golden hour’ to get to Huntsville, let alone Port Sydney,” writes Bev Beavis. “The north end of the catchment area will certainly suffer if the hospital is moved farther south.”
Robin Brown, superintendent at the Huntsville Legion Seniors Manor, notes the current quick response time to 911 calls and says, “…Lack of sufficient medical care and not in close proximity would mean many would, plain and simple, just not make it! It is IMPERATIVE we have 2 hospitals! … But if they are more than an hour away, the cemeteries will be fuller than the hospital beds! There is only so much a Paramedic can do in an ambulance when traversing the back roads in a snowstorm. PLEASE consider how your decision will impact everyone in need of good healthcare in our community. We love LIVING here!”
Stephen Webb, a paramedic for more than 30 years, shared a similar message. “…2 hospitals WILL SAVE LIVES and 1 hospital will definitely put lives at risk. It’s simple when you think of the distance increases it will create when one has to drive out of their community to Port Sydney. Not to mention the increased cost to the tax payers for the increased costs, staffing and ambulances, because of the added distance and time. Not only does MAHC need to listen but the province needs to listen and realize that the provincial government is putting Muskoka Lives at Risk!!!!”
And at least one urged people to send their message to Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. “So rather than demanding that MAHC ‘listen to the people’, why not take your concerns and proposals directly to the administration that will actually be making the future health care facility decisions for our region,” writes James Solecki. “That is not MAHC, but rather the Ministry of Health.”
Tebby hopes that people will take the time to read what others have to say. “There are good ideas there if people take the time to read them,” says Tebby.
And she hopes that going forward, the process of deciding the future of Muskoka’s hospitals will “give a little bit more thought to the patients,” she says. “I hope that we can think up something to bring more attention to it. It’s going to be a sad day if we lose our hospital.”
Tebby would “love to see a few big wagons on the main street and have everybody jump on the wagon, but that’s not feasible.” She knows there’s been talk of a rally at the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) office in Orillia, but she thinks people need to show their support in Huntsville, too.
“‘Listen to the people, MAHC!’ shows that momentum can be built with just five words,” says Tebby. “I think if people would get more involved they would be surprised what could be done.”
Related stories and links:
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.