The local share for Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) to build new hospitals in Bracebridge and Huntsville could rise to $225 million over the next five to 10 years.
Moreen Miller, Chair of the MAHC Board of Directors, explains the Ministry of Health will cover 70 percent of the costs associated with constructing the new hospitals. “The communities’ share can be up to 30 percent of the total project cost including all furnishings, fixtures, and equipment in the buildings, plus any revenue, generating space such as parking lots and gift shops that the ministry won’t pay for,” she continues.
“That number could be lower, or could be higher, depending on how the final design of the hospital works out through the team that is working on it now,” says Miller.
The previous estimate for how much the hospital and local share would cost was done in 2019. The numbers amounted to $561 million and $129 million, respectively. However, Miller explains the current estimate by MAHC is that the cost of the project is estimated to rise to $967 million in the next five to 10 years and, likewise, the local share could rise to $225 million. That is due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation of construction-related costs, and supply chain challenges that hospital officials expect will continue to affect them going forward.
Miller told Bracebridge council on Dec. 14 MAHC needs to have a plan for how they will get the local share by June 2023.
“For Muskoka’s future hospitals to proceed to tender, we have to show how our community will pay for its share of the project, and if we can’t demonstrate our plan to do so our project will not move forward,” says Miller.
The plan to build the new hospitals is currently in the third part of the first of three phases that are part of the early planning stages. The last part of the first phase will wrap up in Sept. 2023. The earliest construction could begin is five years from now as part of the project’s third phase. “We believe getting it in a little earlier gives a better position for the ministry to review and approve our submission quickly,” explains Miller.
The plan is to build a new hospital in Huntsville on the same land the current hospital occupies on 100 Frank Miller Dr. while the new Bracebridge hospital will be made on yet-to-be-determined land. According to hospital officials, the old hospital at 75 Ann St. could be sold or repurposed.
“We know how important it is for the region, not only to us but also for our greater communities, to have high quality, safe care through two new hospitals,” says Miller. “There is certainly more to come and it’s important to recognize the project cost will continue to evolve as we move through the planning process and get closer to a shovel in the ground.”
Officials say the Local Share Committee, which involves political officials from throughout Muskoka as well as the hospital foundations in Huntsville and South Muskoka, will “continue to work collaboratively toward determining each party’s contribution with the collective goal to demonstrate the community’s ability to raise its share of the project to build two new hospitals.”
Harrison and Miller have already spoken to Bracebridge and Huntsville councils about the situation and plan to meet with the remaining four councils in early 2023.