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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