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Bracebridge council discusses potential location for new hospital

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) has 12 potential sites bookmarked for the new Bracebridge hospital.

While the new Huntsville hospital will be built at 100 Frank Miller Dr., where the current hospital is, the new hospital in Bracebridge will be built on new land.

In a report to Bracebridge’s General Committee on Tuesday, Eric Turcotte, partner at Urban Strategies Inc., Moreen Miller, MAHC board chair, and Andrew Gall, MAHC’s interim vice president of corporate services, planning and chief financial officer, said the land the current hospital is on at 75 Ann St. is too small at only 11 acres and is bordered by an environmentally-protected ravines and residential neighbourhood.

Urban Strategies was retained by MAHC to help with the site selection process and reach out to stakeholders to get their thoughts.

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The yet-to-be-chosen land for the new Bracebridge hospital has to be at least 40 acres with access to a major road or highway among other criteria.

Turcotte explained that’s the minimum amount needed, pointing out it’s similar to how much land the Huntsville hospital is built on. He told committee they want to make sure they have room to grow.

Of the 12 potential sites, MAHC has identified three were detailed during the committee meeting that meet the aforementioned criteria. Turcotte mentioned a fourth property was found “less than 12 hours” before the meeting. However, he didn’t provide more details, mentioning they haven’t determined yet if it’s within the town urban centre boundary.

The first is the 45 acres of land owned by Fowler Construction, near the JD Lang Activity Park, and close to Hwy. 11 with access from Prine St. and Depot Dr. It’s noted in MAHC’s report there is currently no access to the land from the highway.

The second spot is 201 acres of land along Ecclestone Dr. and Muskoka Beach Rd. It’s informally referred to as the Muskoka Royale property. It’s noted in MAHC’s report there is a “small wetland area” on site.

The third spotlighted piece of land is 79 acres along Hwy. 118 W. It’s close to the shopping plaza that includes Canadian Tire. There is access to it from Salmon Ave. and the subdivision to the south.

The meeting with Bracebridge’s committee came a day after MAHC’s first public meeting to discuss the new hospitals. The meeting was held in Huntsville and was the of first six in-person, and two virtual, meetings. One will be held in Bracebridge on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 to 3:30 PM.

“If people want to talk to us, we welcome those discussions,” said Turcotte.

He added during the committee meeting that a second round of open houses will be held prior to the land being aquired for the new Bracebridge hospital.

It’s been a busy month and a half for Miller who, along with Cheryl Harrison, MAHC’s president and CEO, have spoken to the six municipal councils in Muskoka to discuss how they will raise the local share for the two hospitals. In Dec. 2022, the pair told Bracebridge and Huntsville councils the local share could rise to $225 million. They said MAHC has to have a plan for how they will raise that money by June 2023.

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