Health minister offers hope for local hospitals

HUNTSVILLE A recent meeting between Muskoka politicians and Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott drew rave reviews from local elected officials.

Health Minister Christine Elliott seemed to be on side with Muskoka politicians who pleaded their case to the new Ford government’s deputy premier.

Huntsville Mayor Scott Aichison told his council he almost fell off his chair when the minister agreed with the recent MAHC task force recommendation of a two-hospital model.

He was equally effusive in his praise for Elliott, who he told councilors also agreed with Muskoka that the funding formula for medium-sized hospitals is flawed.

Aichison, Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, District of Muskoka Chair John Klinck and MPP Norm Miller got some face time with the deputy premier at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario fall conference.

They gave her and the Ford government an update on the hospital challenges in East Parry Sound and Muskoka.

The Capital Plan Development Task Force reconvened on Sept. 24, having completed half of its mandate — the Part A work related to defining programs and services that MAHC proposes to provide in the future, and identifying a preferred two acute sites model for the future that has been endorsed by the MAHC Board of Directors.

The Task Force’s Part B work is underway to study options for the physical building infrastructure approach, the siting of the two acute sites, cost estimates, and the local share plan for the community’s portion of the cost. This work is much more technical and will rely heavily on the consultant experts and MAHC clinical leader expertise through workshops that will explore things like footprint size of the clinical program and service spaces and adjacencies to one another.

The Task Force revisited its terms of reference and supported changes to its role and membership, having received resignations of Don Mitchell due to competing commitments, and Philip Matthews who in June became the MAHC Board Chair. As well, MAHC Chief Nursing Executive & Clinical Services Esther Millar has joined the Task Force, bringing clinical and nursing expertise and experience. The Task Force confirmed its role is to endorse the approach to planning and key design principles, receive summaries of workshop findings and consultant reports, and provide guidance, insight, and oversight on communication, engagement and community education and the development of a local share funding and financing plan. The Task Force will continue its oversight of the project schedule, which is anticipated to culminate in the spring of 2019 with a recommendation of preferred development options to the MAHC Board.

The Task Force directed the consultants to study a number of potential physical development options for the two acute sites model, and is working to finalize design parameters that include alignment with the goals of the MAHC organization, a patient- and family-focused approach, the promotion of health and wellness, operational excellence and environmental sustainability, for example.

Due to the highly technical nature of the Part B work, the Task Force will meet less regularly. The next Task Force meeting is October 22, 2018.