Task Force needs to be honest and clear on a number of points in Hospital debate ~ Jean Bagshaw


A Message to the Capital Plan Development Task Force … 

I am sure that the members of the task force, the administration and the board have been working very hard to find the best option for acute care services in the region. This is a very complicated and high cost project with many stakeholders, all of whom want to have input into the direction that is taken.

To have a productive relationship with the public, I believe that the task force needs to:

1. Be perfectly honest with us and tell us the hard facts with as little health jargon as possible; this means explaining that there has not been sufficient funding to meet operating costs for many years, that small to medium-sizeed hospitals province-wide have been pleading their case to the Ministry of Health for years to no avail, that if the Ministry was interested in adequately funding us, they would have changed the funding formula and they would have increased base funding, neither of which they have done, instead giving only one-time bail-outs which do not meet our needs and have to be repeated every year.

2. Explain that over the years many patient care beds were closed to try and meet budgetary constraints and live within the financial parameters set by the government, so it is not so much a question of space and rooms, as it is the wherewithal to operate them.

3. Whenever a speaker or a writer adds an “s” to the word “hospital” and talks about keeping their town’s hospital, clarify that we have ONE hospital organization called Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC), with two buildings; this happened several years ago when the two hospitals amalgamated; this is not just semantics as it makes a tremendous difference in how a person perceives the issue; to let people continue to believe that they still have their “own” hospital is to encourage them to live a fantasy that does not exist.

4. Do not be afraid to make it clear that no matter which option we pursue, we will end up with acute care services in one location; if we divide services between two sites, the site that has surgical services will be the acute care site; if we have one inpatient site and one outpatient site, the inpatient site will have acute care services; if we have one new build on a new site, it will be the acute care site.

5. When people express the belief that a new build will be far more expensive than refurbishing two old buildings, answer that statement immediately with facts as you know them to date.

6. When people say that you are trying to build a Taj Mahal that we don’t need … answer them with an explanation of what you have in mind.

7. When others say that there is no need for private patient accommodation with en suite bathrooms because this is not a five-star hotel, give reasons for why this would be included in a new build.

8. When some say that it is impossible to build a new hospital in the boonies where there are no municipal services, address the topic openly and thoughtfully.

9.When a writer talks about towns that are not within the Simcoe-Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), tell them about the LHINS and their regions and how the distribution of funds affects decision-making at the LHIN level, and why our LHIN might not be concerned about health care in locations for which they are not responsible.

10. When someone who has been classified as a “senior” voices an opinion or asks a question, show them respect and understand that even though they themselves may not be here to benefit from future health services, they nevertheless care deeply about their town and the health care services available to those who live in that town or visit it.

11. The task force needs to reveal where any new build would be located if they expect people to be able to get on-side with that option; it is impossible for anyone to even consider that choice without having a clue where it will be built (i.e. within a 20 minute drive from both Huntsville and Bracebridge or a certain number of kilometres south of Huntsville and north of Bracebridge).

12. If talking about a Site A or a Site B, or an Outpatient Site and an Inpatient Site, they need to declare which site will be where.

And finally, if the decision has already been made, then they need to have the courage to tell us that, with the reasons for it.

I think this will lead to more open and honest communication that allows everyone to have respectful and reasoned interactions.

Jean Bagshaw is a retired registered nurse having training in a hospital school of nursing and then obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing as a graduate a few years later. She has worked on the front lines of health care for 49 years, primarily in the hospital sector. Jean is writing as a concerned citizen who does not have any official involvement in the health services planning being done at the this time.

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  1. As usual Jean hits all the right points.
    No one likes change, but if change must happen (and I absolutely believe it must) then open, honest, fully explained reasoning is essential.
    Sound decisions are easier to support.

  2. Thank you Jean. You’ve made salient points that need to be considered as we go forward. And you’re right; many seniors ARE deeply concerned, of course not because they will be here, but for their families. As we know, many of our seniors helped build up both hospitals because they cared to leave a legacy. It would be a shame for the “current” government of the day to destroy all that work. It must be very frustrating to watch something, possibly, come to naught.

  3. Bob and Susan Vtech on

    Well said Jean.
    Is anyone listening?
    They only have to listen, not do as we request.
    Remember we do live in a democracy?

  4. Yet again Jean you have addressed the issues in a clear and simple manner- I truly wish the public at large would take the time to read your educated and thoughtful comments. I personally am tired of listening to those who believe that there are two legal entities providing acute care in the Muskoka area.
    You have touched on several other issues that both staff and the consulting team need to take to heart. Thank you.

  5. I appreciate asking these questions and undoubtedly there are more.
    I have another question about the LHIN – sometime ago I heard or read that the LHIN (any LHIN, all LHINs) were set out to help the province know what was needed in any local or specific area – reasoning being that not all places are alike (even with the NSMLHIN) there is a huge difference between Barrie and Huntsville (residential hospice is a good example – the Province had one model(ten beds) but Hospice Huntsville with the support of other smaller hospices was able to move forward) and therefore few were like Toronto or even London – each area in the province has different needs. However, since the inception of the LHIN they have shown time and again they primarily work for the Province, not the other way around.

  6. There are a few questions that you didn’t cover, like how people will get to a hospital out of town if they don’t have a car? And who looks after the people north of Novar and west towards Parry Sound and the others who live in Dorset and Dwight? I can say I’m honestly feeling sorry for those who will have an added 20-plus minutes to getting to a hospital due to all of this and I hate to sound mean but if someone dies due to time I hope they sue.

  7. Frankie Dewsbury on

    Jean, I love your reminder that we only have one hospital named Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC). MAHC is a wonderful hospital that continues to provide excellence in safe and quality care no matter the challenges. How? MAHC has a huge team of dedicated staff, physicians, volunteers and community support all with roles to play towards a common goal; people doing great work and working together for people who need care. In my opinion, no physical changes made to care models will ever change dedication to a shared goal.

  8. Margaret Ann Gendreau on

    Very well said Jean. Your points are valid and written in such a way that they are easily understood.

  9. I offer many thanks to Jean Bagshaw. She worked with me for 17 Yrs,
    Her observations about Huntsville’s hospital ‘workings’ are SO accurate..
    It is my opinion that this was the worst hospital ‘management’ I have EVER worked
    under. When the ‘amalgamation’ came about, between Huntsville & Bracebridge
    things went to Hell, like safe staffing & qualified RN’s vs RPN’s working ESP. In ICU).
    As I worked in Huntsville’s ICU over 17 years, I endured more and more STRESS, changing of
    nurse managers, and horrible conditions concerning ‘patient safety’. It is a 2 to 5 ratio, there; Qualified staffing, for this ICU / acute care, became “iffy”. If an RN called off (ill), she would be replaced in ICU by an RPN from East Wing, more times than I care to recall. Many ICU regular nurses have been so burnt-out, none could stretch anymore time to ‘cover’ the needs….
    I hope people will listen and take heed,of Jean’s letter. She is wise, reasonable. And dead-on in her assessments & suggestions).
    Please (think and vote) to keep Huntsville Hospital open. Please. L Kelly, RN

    • You are being overly critical of RPNs. Today’s RPNs are at least as well-trained as old RN diploma grads were. In the past, RPNs may not have been so thoroughly trained, that is true. A BSN does not automatically confer “expert” status–it takes a lot of training to get there. No one, and that includes RNs comes automatically to highly specialized care such as that of ICU nurse. Many RPNs are now in the process of upgrading their skills from RPN to RN. It is unfair to denigrate their contributions. Their scope of practice is more limited than that of RNs but they are skilled professionals and ON THE SAME TEAM as RNs.

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