The details of the new healthcare system as part of Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare’s (MAHC) hospital redevelopment plan have been released.
While services will differ between the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge and the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, officials with MAHC say each will have a 24/7 emergency department and inpatient beds but there will be “less duplication” of services.
They say the plan will see day surgeries and other outpatient surgical procedures, as well as most outpatient exams, like non-urgent imaging, within a “leading edge ambulatory and surgical care centre on a new location in Bracebridge.”
The emergency department in Bracebridge will be supported by full diagnostic and medical specialist support, 14 inpatient beds in single patient rooms, and four intensive care unit beds.
Inpatient care, including obstetrical labour (childbirth), will be the focus at the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital. There will be 139 acute care beds, specialized rehabilitation care for stroke patients, and new reactivation care to help patients as they prepare to leave the hospital and go back home.
The intensive care unit in Huntsville will expand to 10 beds and will “keep more advanced, critical care patients in Muskoka.”
The 24/7 care centre in Huntsville, like in Bracebridge, will feature surgery and full diagnostics, including magnetic resonance imaging services.
As part of the plan, officials say they will work with communities, specifically mentioning Almaguin Highlands and Gravenhurst, to support family health teams and health hubs.
Cheryl Harrison, president and chief executive officer of MAHC, says the plan considers the challenges the organization is facing, including healthcare worker shortages and the “prescribed budget for building the two hospitals.”
“We recognize this is proposing a different structure from the status quo in Muskoka for the past 50-plus years,” says Harrison. “We are in a very changed environment since the pandemic with a chronic shortage in healthcare workers that causes repeated service disruptions where we have to single site services when we can’t ensure safe medical coverage. Staggering post-pandemic inflation has driven a 50 percent increase in healthcare construction costs, and this means that collectively we cannot afford to build our facilities exactly how they are today. Solving these challenges for decades to come has taken creative thinking to find a way to provide the same services, but differently and more efficiently.”
The details of the redevelopment project come a few days after a letter authored by Dr. Rohit Gupta, which was also endorsed by close to 50 other local physicians, criticized the plan put forward by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC).
“As physicians and surgeons who practice in South Muskoka, we have significant concerns with the proposed hospital redevelopment model and its implications for healthcare delivery in our community,” reads Gupta’s letter, which was posted on social media. “[The] South Muskoka Memorial Hospital often operates at over 100 percent occupancy of inpatients, with our volumes being especially heavy over the past several months.”
Harrison says they will continue to listen and work together to “develop the best model for the future that meets the needs of our communities, leverages a significant opportunity to build new hospitals, and gives the best care locally for future generations.”
MAHC has community chats scheduled to discuss the hospital development project.