MPP Norm Miller launches petition to keep two hospital sites


Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller launched a petition this weekend calling upon the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to commit to maintaining core services at both Huntsville Memorial Hospital and South Muskoka Memorial Hospital.

“Residents are feeling that Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare is not listening to them so I wanted to launch this petition at this time to give the people of Huntsville, Bracebridge and everywhere else in the catchment area a way to voice their concerns,” said Miller.

Miller introduced petitions in support of maintaining the two hospital sites in 2015 and attended rallies in support of both hospitals.

On Friday, the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Capital Plan Development Task Force released information on the three models it is considering. Those three models are Two Acute Sites, One Inpatient Site and One Outpatient Site, and a Single Site model. The Task Force is expected to recommend one of these models to the MAHC Board later this spring.

“I appreciate that the Task Force has released more information about their process and the options they are considering,” said Miller. “However, the only option I can support is the Two Acute Sites model.”

The petition also calls upon the Minister to ensure small and medium sized hospitals receive adequate funding to maintain core services.

“I encourage residents who also support the Two Acute Sites model to sign this petition and mail it to my Queen’s Park office or return it to my Bracebridge office or to Huntsville Town Hall as soon as possible.”

The petition can be found at

Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.



  1. Donna Heittola on

    We need two hospitals. There have been many times through out the years if it wasn’t for the two hospitals we would have lost some family members who made it through thanks to our medical staff at both hospitals and being close to the hospital saved lives and for that I am thankful. Please keep both hospitals in Huntsville and in Bracebridge Thank you.

  2. Len Macdonald on

    Norm, you are a little too late with this to gain votes. The planning committee beat you to it. The 2 sites have been part of the planning for months. Where have you been? You must be reading just blogs and not real information.

    This kind of blatant vote pandering is usually reserved for our mayor and Doug Ford.

    • With all due respect Len, your information is not accurate, or sufficiently complete. Here are the real facts. The 2-full acute care site model that the community has demanded consistently over the past 3 years, has not ”been part of the planning for months”, as you claim. Here is the full relevant history. The two-full acute care option was officially on the table as one of 3 Options MAHC was considering up until spring of 2015. Then, around March 23 of 2015, in a MAHC slide presentation called “Hospital Care for Our Future Generations”, the words “Not Status Quo” suddenly appeared, with no clear definition offered. That term becomes more defined in the Task Force Survey (Aug – Oct, 2017), where it was qualified this way: ” This model maintains two sites with Emergency Departments, recognizing the need to further consolidate programs and services across the two sites. Recent examples of single sited services include Gynecological Surgery, Ophthalmology (cataract surgery), and Chemotherapy. Service siting would be based on clinical needs and service co-location requirements to create greater efficiencies, larger volumes and critical mass, and reducing duplication of staffing and equipment.”

      The “Not Status Quo” qualifier remained (with its serious potential negative community implications, including single-siting of surgery & obstetrics), throughout the task force deliberations, and over strong objections from key task force members, physicians, right up until Cameron Renwick announced it was dropped, at the Huntsville council meeting on March 26, when he stated the option ‘includes 24-hour emergency departments, obstetrics and critical care surgery at both sites’. MAHC was forced into making this change as a direct result of the sustained outcry from the entire community, including physicians, municipal, and provincial elected leaders.

      Norm Miller has been openly supporting the expressed interests of the people who elected him for quite some time now. He is rightly fighting for what the people want: Two full acute care hospital sites, adequately funded to maintain core services. This is not “vote pandering”, he’s doing his job. The people recognize this.

      • Len Macdonald on

        Politicians do what politicians have always done. They promise to deliver whatever will get them the most votes. No thought for who will pay. Miller is no different.

        In the case of 2 full hospitals, how much in extra municipal taxes are the taxpayers of Huntsville and Bracebridge willing to pay through an extra tax levy? How much more will it cost us to run 2 full hospitals every year? And don’t think that the seasonal cottagers (who go the hospitals in the city) will be willing to pay extra taxes for this.

        Everybody wants a full hospital 20 minutes from their home. Lets see what happens when they are told they have to pay extra in taxes for this.

        • If the Liberals had not TRIPLED the debt of the Province we might have a lot more “wiggle room” than it appears we now have. When more and more of our tax dollars are going to pay the interest on the debt, that leaves less and less for important programs like healthcare. The Liberals REFUSE to address the scandalous waste in their programs and we are paying for it with our lives. Think about it.

          A one hospital plan on the south side of Bracebridge leaves many in Huntsville and environs traveling a very long way to get hospital care. I disagree that cottagers will not pay increased taxes for the sake of getting good care. They use the healthcare services here too.

        • Len, again, you don’t seem to have all the facts. Let me help. First, the MAHC two full acute care site option was way over inflated to begin with. It is 75% larger than the two existing sites combined, and is 87% new build, 13% full renovations. You never see MAHC pointing this out anywhere. In fact, you see the opposite. These much over-looked facts unnecessarily inflated the two-site option cost to $475M. There are more reasonable two-site redevelopment approaches possible, whose cost will come in well below even the current single-site model cost; they must be tabled. Please see my earlier Doppler article for details, and Hugh Hollands just published Doppler post on the same topic:

          Second, to your point on operating costs. Do you realize this is paid by the province, not through town/municipal taxes? Once the province fixes the flawed and unfair funding formula for mid sized hospitals like ours (there are ~23 of them with issues), most of these hospitals operating deficits will be history. My rough estimate of the total cost to do this is in the $60M – $80M range, which is about 0.1% of the Ontario health care budget (also, for context, that’s about $4 per person in Ontario). The problem is its just never been a high enough priority for this Liberal government to actually deliver on. Not only is the Ontario PC party/new leader publicly on the record to address it, but even Eric Hoskins, recent past Health Minister, stated on the record his recognition of the problem, and further said that the Ministry had work well underway to address it, with the clear understanding it would be done soon (at a recent large gathering of Ontario Municipal leaders, as reported by our Muskoka Mayors). Unfortunately, when given a chance to express the government’s support for town/rural community hospitals like ours (during Question Period this week – see Doppler article from April 10), the new Health Minister, Helena Jaczek, refused to even acknowledge what her predecessor had previously committed. Seemingly yet another broken Liberal government commitment.

          Facts do matter, and the people from rural Ontario will remember.

        • One other important fact Len, regarding your point “everybody wants a full hospital 20 minutes from their homes”. You appear to miss this key point – our current hospitals serve a very large catchment area. If you want to see a detailed travel time analysis, I refer you to the CAHHMA web site, and this page: . Unlike the MAHC consultant travel time data in their Pre-capital submission (which we find simplistic and misleading), this analysis is detailed, accurate and paints the complete picture.
          What you will find is that the average travel time (factoring in all areas, not population weighted, for the entire catchment area) to the current hospital sites, is about 42 minutes. A few areas on the most outer parts of the catchment area have to drive over 90 minutes. Also consider that these times are all in good weather and road conditions, so they grow substantially when conditions deteriorate, as they often do up here in the winter (especially the secondary roads). So, no wonder that adding another 15 to 30 minutes, or more, (depending on model – single-site or Inpatient / Outpatient site locations) has been thoroughly rejected by most in the community.
          I don’t know where you live, however I urge you not to trivialize this important matter. For many, the additional travel time could easily be the difference between life and death in a real emergency.

    • Len, please read Dave Wilkin’s response to you. You are smearing good people. What have you got against our MPP and our Mayor (if you are even from Huntsville?). Is it because they are not supporting the Liberal government’s deliberate mishandling of our healthcare options by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care? Why were we only given a 1.4 percent increase while the rest of the Province’s LHINs were given a 4.6 percent increase (except perhaps the ones covering Conservative ridings)?

      • Len Macdonald on

        “Smearing good people” that’s a laugh. That is exactly what the mayor did to the hospital board and CEO. And now Norm Miller is weighing in too. Muskoka got less money because we don’t have the population growth that other areas do. Plus we are in a PC riding.

        • He didn’t say that they were not good people–he said that they were self-appointed (which they are) and that they appeared to be pushing for the one-hospital alternative (he felt that a number on the Board apparently do desire that outcome). He was sitting in on the meetings so he is aware of far more than you might be. What the mayor said, is, in the minds of many people, a valid criticism. You are impugning the character of our Mayor and our MPP for speaking out on an issue that concerns a great many people in this area and it is, frankly, not helpful to the situation. We have been given especially inadequate funding ever since the Liberal government took over and the Provincial health minister refuses to consider the fact that our population triples in the summer here. Other Conservative ridings have been given similar treatment. The Wynne government claims to be interested in northern development but what they do denies what they say.

        • Pointing to Minister of Health, Helena Jaczek’s reason for Muskoka getting less money being based on lower growth or politics, is partly right, but incomplete. Unfortunately, politics too often influences how our tax $ are spent. Jaczek’s pointing to her ridings as examples of “high growth” communities, justifying why they received more of the $822M hospital operational budget increase is suspect. Why? Population growth is more relevant for future capital planning. Operational budgets are annual, and should be based mostly on current needs and demands, and critical, capacity short falls – measurable indicators like: ER/surgery wait times, hospital occupancy rates, hospital budget deficits, etc. Let’s hope growth-rate is not the primary Ministry driver.

          Jaczek represents the riding of Oak Ridges -Markham, so let’s look at hospitals in or near to her riding, and compare to MAHC:

          2018 % increase ER minor wait (1) 2017 surplus (2)
          Mackenzie Health 11.5% 81%. (-0.6)%
          Markham Stouffville 6.6% 81%. 1.89%
          MAHC 1.2% 97% (-3.2)%
          Notes: 1. ER wait times for minor/uncomplicated conditions, Feb 2018, % of provincial avg 2. Before 1 time government payments

          Also, neither Mackenzie Health nor Markham Stouffville made the top 10 highest occupancy rate for acute care beds, but MAHC had its Huntsville Hospital in there, @99%. (per Ministry data for 5 yrs avg ending 3 rd Q of 2016-17 fiscal year).

          Sadly, the losers appear to be mid-sized (rural/community) hospitals, like ours.

  3. Len Macdonald on

    When you publicly demand that a volunteer board and the hospital CEO be fired, that is “smearing good people.” When you receive a cease and desist letter from a lawyer alleging defamation of the reputations of people who live and work in our community, That is “smearing good people.”

    • Well, you really can’t go by a “cease and desist” letter from a lawyer. Lawyers do that kind of thing all the time, whether there is substantial reason for it or not. And really, if the Board can’t take a bit of heat, then maybe they should think about getting out of the kitchen. They don’t get to be immune to criticism just because they don’t like it. They are public servants.

  4. Len Macdonald on

    “A bit of heat” is one thing. Having the mayor publicly demand that they be removed is another. And they are not “public servants.” They are community volunteers who donate their time and skills to the hospital. What have you done for the hospital lately?

Leave a reply below. Comments without both first & last name will not be published. Your email address is required for validation but will not be publicly visible.