Attempts to get support for a two-hospital model as presented by the mayors of Huntsville and Bracebridge at a joint council meeting held at the Algonquin Theatre on February 1, 2016, are meeting with resistance.
At the heart of those concerns lies the idea that one of the two hospitals would lose acute care. The presentation, approved by the councils at the meeting, talks about one hospital being site A and another site B. Site B would offer ambulatory and chronic care with some minor day surgeries but lose its acute care surgical capacity. That notion seems to be raising alarm bells among doctors in north Muskoka as well as municipalities to the north. They are concerned with winding up as site B under the proposal.
In a follow up request sent out by the Town of Huntsville to municipalities to the north asking for support of the joint councils’ position, Township of Perry Clerk-Administrator Beth Morton responded as follows:
Perry Council was disappointed that Huntsville/Bracebridge did not provide consultation to the northern municipalities in the catchment area. From Perry’s understanding of the proposal presented, it would appear to be very similar to what was presented and rallied against over a year ago, which would result in the closure of the Huntsville Hospital within 5 years. Township of perry Clerk-Administrator Beth Morton
“Council does not believe this proposal came together the right way, therefore they are not entertaining a motion to support the resolution provided,” she added.
Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison is away until the end of February and unavailable for comment. We reached Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith to comment on the concerns, which he referred to as premature. He said the idea behind the joint resolution is to get the board of Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, which administers both hospitals, to realize that the one-hospital model that they are proposing for the area won’t fly.
“The biggest thing at this point is to get them to recognize that the one-site model is injurious to the long-term health of Muskoka. So we put an alternative proposal out because we were asked for an alternative proposal and, you know, the feedback is great,” he said. “We’ve got a meeting with the Ministry of Health on Monday not to talk just about the long-term but the short-term pressures too and the fact that MAHC needs money today to make decisions without a gun to their head for tomorrow.”
The meeting the Mayor is referring to is expected to take place at a joint conference at Toronto’s Royal York between the Ontario Good Roads Association and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison is expected to send Huntsville resident Mike Harrower in his stead. Harrower is a member of the group the mayor established to look at the hospital issue as a result of the one-hospital model proposed by MAHC. (Update: Councillors Dan Armour and Brian Thompson will also be at the meeting.)
Asked whether he’d be presenting their proposed model for site A and B hospitals at that meeting, Smith said, “I don’t think our plan is to get the Minister’s ear on site A/B at the meeting on Monday. The plan is just to let the Minister know we’re working at it,” said Smith. “The intent is not to go to the Minister and lobby for our specific proposal because that would circumvent and jump over the task force that we’ve been part of.” The task force Smith was referring to is one set up by the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network to find a consensus on the future of the hospitals in the community. The LHIN distributes funding dollars in their catchment area and advises the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
In terms of concerns about the idea of losing acute care in any one hospital, Smith said those concerns are premature. “I know there are fears and concerns from some people, not everyone, about the plan that has been put forward and you know you can find a lot of ghosts in the room in any plan. Are they real? Is there a chance of them becoming real? You can ‘what if’ any plan to death. You can take the worst-case scenarios of everything and only focus on that or you can take the good components of things and work with that, try and put them together, find points of compromise and at the end of the day end up with something hopefully that’s pretty solid.”
Smith described the joint council submission as getting off “to a pretty good start on this. Let’s work with the medical community to make it better,” he said.
See Doppler’s related story, Huntsville medical community not broadly behind two-hospital model, says Mathies, here.