Mayor of Bracebridge Rick Maloney says he has confidence Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare will make the necessary modifications to its hospital redevelopment plans.
In an interview with the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom, he expanded on the comments he made to open the community chat MAHC held in Bracebridge on Feb. 6.
“It’s very clear that folks in South Muskoka have concerns about the model that’s been presented,” he says.
The proposed model, called the “Made-in-Muskoka healthcare system” by MAHC, will see services split between the hospital sites in Bracebridge and Huntsville. A fact sheet was handed to attendees at the Bracebridge and Port Carling meetings detailing how the plan, if approved, will allow the hospitals to be “complementary to each other as part of an integrated and regional healthcare system.”
Cheryl Harrison, president and chief executive officer of MAHC, explained during the meetings they were told in late Oct. by the Ministry of Health that the previous plan that would have seen a “status quo” model pitched to residents was 50 percent over budget. She said the province told them to rework the plan to fit within the prescribed budget.
“I get that time moves on and we’re now six or seven years later and the world of health care changes,” says Maloney. “We went through COVID. Obviously, what a plan was seven or eight years ago needs to change. I get that.”
However, he says the community, especially in South Muskoka, has told MAHC they’re not in favour of the current plan.
“The important message is there is an opportunity here to bring $1 billion worth of healthcare to our community,” continues Maloney. “There’s an opportunity to solidify healthcare for the next 40 years in our community and we want to get it right.”
With that in mind, he echoes what he said during his speech on Tuesday: slow down.
Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith said during the Bracebridge meeting he has already started advocating to his provincial colleagues in hopes of getting MAHC more planning time.
“My goal is to continue to work with MAHC, continue to be engaged with our medical community and stakeholders so we can come together and find a plan that meets the expectations of all of Muskoka,” says Maloney.
He points out that this model is only proposed.
Moreen Miller, board chair, said after the meeting in Bracebridge that the Board of Directors will vote on the model in the spring but suggested they may delay that to rework the submission. She estimated it would add another “two to three years” to the project.
“I have full confidence that MAHC will look at their plan and modify it as they deem fit,” says Maloney.
He asks those who are concerned about the proposed plan to continue sharing their feedback.
“The puzzle pieces are coming into play but we just need to work through this last piece,” says Maloney.