BARRIE-MUSKOKA — Everyone knows health care changes inevitable in the midst of COVID-19 and post pandemic.

So technological changes involving areas hospitals come as welcome — if not news — to patients and their families today.

A release today, Friday May 15, from Muskoka’s two hospitals and the RVH in Barrie, says Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) has introduced virtual critical care that will enable more critically-ill patients to stay in the Bracebridge and Huntsville hospitals for the intensive care they need, closer to their family and friends.

A $50,000 North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN investment in additional telemedicine at both of MAHC’s sites, will give them direct access — when needed — to the expertise of six “intensivists” from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) for clinical support and consultation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

They say virtual access to specialized medicine is a “patient-focused approach to care closer to home to the right patient, in the right place, at the right time.”

It provides real-time clinical support to critical care units and emergency departments in smaller hospitals, and also helps to reduce the need for patients to be transferred to another facility.

“Virtual critical care allows patients cared for in smaller hospitals like ours to benefit from services of larger organizations, reducing access barriers caused by distance,” says Dr. Khal Salem, chief of internal medicine for MAHC.

“Through secure videoconferencing, our internists in Huntsville and South Muskoka are able to access advice fromIntensivists virtually on an emergency basis. When time matters most, quicker advanced critical care can make the difference in saving lives.”

Introducing virtual critical care aligns with three of MAHC’s strategic areas, and will help to optimize clinical resources in rural and small communities for the highest quality of care, adds Chief Executive Officer Natalie Bubela.

“Anytime we can provide better care locally by removing geographic obstacles that can limit a patient’s access to appropriate care is a positive step toward enhancing the patient’s and the family’s experience,” says Bubela.

“We are eager to see this virtual critical care technology in action and are excited to grow our relationships with RVH, Critical Care Services Ontario, ORNGE, Criticall and the Ontario Telemedicine Network and are grateful for the LHIN’s funding support.”

Hospitals in Muskoka and Barrie will have closer links with a $50,000 LHIN grant for telemedicine, they siad today.