Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare’s CEO is touting how staff at the Bracebridge and Huntsville hospitals have been “on top” of handling the surgical backlog at the two sites.

“I would say we’ve been on top of it right from the beginning,” Natalie Bubela tells the newsroom. Currently, she says there is “very, very little” backlog with surgical activity, adding the hospitals are up-to-date with diagnostic imaging as well. The South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge and the Huntsville District Hospital have both been running at capacity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, Bubela says the sites are at about 95-percent capacity. She adds they’re averaging about 80 to 90 visits to the emergency department each day between the two hospitals. 

While the number of new cases added in Ontario has remained steady over the past month and a half, a potential fourth wave is becoming a topic that health officials are discussing because of new, highly transmissible variants of the novel coronavirus. “At this moment in time, we are staffed and ready and we have everything in place to handle a fourth wave,” Bubela says. “I would hope we don’t get there.”

Bubela also took a moment to praise the province for listening to hospital officials who have spent years advocating for a better funding model. “We felt the funding model has disadvantaged this organization,” she says. Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller announced earlier this week that Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare is getting a 2.5-percent boost to its base funding from the province, which amounts to just over $1.7 million. “This one is going to remain forever, basically,” Bubela says, adding this money will go towards covering operating, staffing and supply costs. “It goes to the bottom line and helps with the costs to our operations,” she says.

“It allows us to not worry about how we’re going to operate because we have confidence in where our funding is,” she says.

That wasn’t the only exciting news from MAHC this week as it was announced Monday that they will be moving forward with the second phase of visitation. That means eligible inpatients can bring in two visitors a day between 10 AM and 8 PM. Bubela says it’s “absolutely exciting” to be allowing more people inside. “The staff are delighted to see that happened because we all know the importance of having visitors for patients,” she says, adding for inpatients it’s “therapeutic” to be able to see more friends and family.

The visitation requirements include screening negative for COVID-19 at the hospital entrance, adhering to strict requirements surrounding where you can and can’t go and following the same physical distancing and hygiene protocols you would outside of the hospital.

“Our staff – despite being tired – are absolutely committed and here to look after our community,” Bubela says.