Primary healthcare costs are not the responsibility of municipalities. This is the message District of Muskoka Council wants to send to the province.

District officials are starting the process of applying for permanent funding for the successful Community Health Hub program in Muskoka. The program was initially funded for three years by the province to act as a pilot program to offer primary care services in Muskoka. The hope was it would help take some of the pressure off the hospital emergency rooms. Health hubs are set up in Port Carling, Dorset, Wahta and there is a fourth mobile health hub that visits Vankoughnet, Port Sydney, Severn Bridge and Ryde. District officials say all four hubs have reported great success with over 15,000 visits recorded over the three years.

But, Lake of Bays Mayor Bob Young says if the province is willing to provide permanent funding, it should include money for more than just the bare bones cost of these health hubs. Young says Lake of Bays had to cover many costs for the Dorset Health Hub including the basic operation of the building. Muskoka Lakes Mayor Don Furniss says his municipality had similar costs to cover for the Port Carling hub. Councillors want to see the province paying for these operational costs and other services including bringing in more than just one nurse practitioner per hub.

Commissioner of Community Services Rick Williams says the budget for the four hubs is about $900,000 annually and he agrees this may not cover the additional operational costs that come with each property. Williams says staff will work on a proposal to send to the government requesting more funding on top of the proposed budget costs. If the proposal for permanent funding is approved the district will be looking at adding more services to the health hubs including community service outreach programs in Dorset and Port Carling.

The funding for the trial run of the health hub program will run out in August. You can find more information on the health hub program here.