Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison said he is looking for assurances from the hospital board and administration in order to remove a pending motion—presented last month—from the council table.
That motion, if passed, would tell the Province that Huntsville Council has lost confidence in the board and hospital CEO, while calling for the removal of both.
The issue will be discussed at Huntsville Council’s April 23 meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at the Algonquin Theatre. The mayor said the venue was chosen because it is hoped and anticipated that a significant number of people will attend.
“We’re going to talk health care, I think the folks from Muskoka Alqonquin Health Care (MAHC) are going to come out and talk to us as well, so we want to hear from people about the hospital, what’s important to them and I think we’ll probably hear a number of things from people about what we should expect from the board of our hospital and what it might take for us not to pass that resolution,” he said.
Aitchison said while planning for the future is important, he is also concerned about what happens to the hospital now. He said he is worried about a funding formula that is patently unfair to medium-sized hospitals and wants assurances from the hospital administration and board that they will fight alongside municipal representatives to lobby the Province to change its unfair funding methodology. He also wants assurances, again from the hospital board and administrators, that no single-siting of acute care services will take place.
“What I’m worried about is today the CEO or the board saying ‘you know what, we just can’t keep going this way. The Province isn’t giving us enough money so we better shut down the OR [operating room]in Huntsville or Bracebridge, and to me that is the beginning of the end… it’s basically single-siting by stealth,” he warned. “I want to be sure that we’re actually working with the Province and fighting the Province together to say ‘we don’t think this is right,’ those are the kind of assurances that I’m looking for—that the board and the administration won’t do that kind of stuff and that they’ll work with us to not let that happen.”
The mayor insisted that the core services of both hospitals must be protected. “The task force is one thing; it’s today that I’m concerned about. I want to know that I have an ally in the board and the administration to go to the Province and say ‘you know, our long-term debate, that’s fine, we’ll continue that discussion. I think that we will come out with a proposal for two acute-care sites and that’s great, but today the funding formula is killing our hospital and we need to fight that battle together.'”
He said if the hospital board of directors and administrators are unable to make such a commitment, he will put a slightly amended version of the previous resolution before council to be voted on. In terms of the possibility of the Province stepping in and appointing an administrator, he said it’s a chance he’s willing to take. “I think we would have a better chance dealing with an administrator at that point, and I would take that risk because I think it’s worth it to save our hospital.”
Asked whether single-siting acute-care services was a real threat, given the reaction of a great number of the community to the idea, Aitchison said there are some who believe that is exactly what should happen.
He said the interim Chief of Staff at MAHC, Dr. Biagio Innantuono, who works out of South Muskoka Memorial Hospital, has said that single-siting surgical care is what should be done. “That’s pretty self-serving for Biagio,” said the mayor. “By the way, in this era of me-too, I have no idea how that guy could be the temporary chief of staff… talk about lack of judgment,” he said, referring to a 2009 disciplinary hearing by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, in which Dr. Innantuono was reprimanded for professional misconduct. You can find that story here.
The mayor also referred to a legal threat made by the board and administration team of the hospital following a submission to Doppler, as ill advised. Town counsel for the mayor has since penned a response in essence stating that the mayor will continue to speak on things that are of public interest.
“I’m no lawyer but I know that what I said wasn’t defamation from the beginning, so I wasn’t terribly concerned about it,” said Aitchison, adding that the threat of a legal lawsuit “speaks to the arrogance and the fear that these people operate under.”
Monday night’s meeting starts at 7 pm and will be held in the Algonquin Theatre. All council meetings are public and open to everyone.
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