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Proposal for new hospitals officially submitted to province

MUSKOKA, ON – The plan to create new hospitals in Muskoka has entered the first stage.

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) officially submitted its redevelopment proposal for the two facilities to the Ministry of Health earlier this week.

CEO of the organization, Natalie Bubela, told the current Bracebridge and Huntsville hospitals are ageing and simply need to be replaced.

“It’s challenging to meet the needs of patients for best practice care and safety to meet various health care standards as they evolve,” Bubela said. “It is really important for us to position ourselves to be able to respond to the changing landscape.”

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Bubela said the plan is to build two brand new hospitals to service Muskoka and East Parry Sound areas. She added the Huntsville facility would likely go up on the same plot of land and the current building would be demolished and turned into a parking lot.

Bubela said there is no site selected yet for Bracebridge, but demolishing the current building might not be necessary. The facility could potentially be renovated and re-purposed.

With Stage 1 submitted to the province, Bubela said it is a waiting game before MAHC can enter stage two. She added it could take anywhere between six to 18 months to hear back from the ministry. If the proposal is approved, the group can move on to Stage 2 which would involve picking a site for the new Bracebridge development.

The builds are estimated at $560 million of which Ontario would cover 90 percent. Bubela said the MAHC is planning to raise $74 million locally to cover the community costs.

“And I should add that the foundation has committed to raising $20 million,” Bubela said. “The foundation will also raise another $60 million over the next 15 years to for the ongoing capital needs the hospitals will require as we wait for the two buildings to be built.”

That 15-year number is the estimated time it will take to get shovels into the ground, but Bubela said the process could be accelerated.

As for what the new hospitals will provide the community, Bubela highlighted 61 additional beds, a stroke rehabilitation unit and MRI technology.

The unique situation MAHC finds itself in that other new builds don’t is that a lot of current furniture and equipment can be moved to the new hospitals. Bubela said roughly $31 million will be saved by the transfer.

Bubela wanted to make sure to recognize the 25 member task force who put the proposal together. She said it took over two years to get to this point where a submission could be made to the province.

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