Mark Clairmont |

HUNTSVILLE A controversy over closing the first COVID assessment centre here has led to at least a one-day drive-through Monday, Sept. 14.

And sparked memories of a bloody feud over the failed “one hospital” plan that had Bracebridge and Huntsville squabbling over which patients in north and south Muskoka would have to commute long distances for essential services.

District of Muskoka Paramedics has added Monday’s date at the Summit Centre for those in the community not displaying symptoms but would like a COVID-19 test (asymptomatic).

You do not need an appointment to be tested at this drive-through location, (9 a.m.-4 p.m.), but be prepared for a line-up if you arrive early.

The move comes amid complaints in Huntsville a few weeks ago that the Bracebridge hospital will be the only permanent site for coronavirus testing now.

Since spring both towns had assessments centres, operated by local doctors and nurses, who have gone back to regular duties.

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) is now operating the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital site at a new designated building in a back parking lot.

It opened at the end of August.

But concerns from residents and town council that led to a meeting with MAHC proved fruitless.

Mayor Karen Terziano complained it was difficult for many people to go to Bracebridge to get tested.

Councillor Tim Withey, a former MAHC board member, called it “outrageous.”

Now they’ve been thrown a bone with the drive-through.

And this week MAHC CEO Natalie Bubela defended the decision for one site.

Although the hospitals weren’t directly responsible for the two assessments centres, MAHC was an interested and involved silent partner.

Bubela said in a blog: “MAHC has been a community partner supporting community testing alongside many providers since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We offered space on an interim basis for the Huntsville assessment centre to function in space that on April 1 was not being used by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) due to school closure. School has since resumed and this year’s Community Clerkship medical students have arrived in Muskoka so NOSM has reclaimed its space.

“Given the Family Health Teams were closing the assessment centres, and in the absence of other willing and able parties, MAHC stepped up to provide this public health service in Muskoka on hospital property at the South Muskoka site as it had an appropriate standalone outbuilding that could be retrofitted.”

Bubela continued: “It is hoped all understand that MAHC did not close the assessment centres. MAHC stepped up to assume the responsibility for community testing, and due to reasons explained above, is only able to do so in one location in Bracebridge. There would not have been a COVID-19 testing in Muskoka after August 28, 2020 if MAHC hadn’t stepped forward to offer an assessment centre.”

All sides deny it was a turf war over jobs.

Expect more appeasement as the district decides whether to continue paramedic testing into the fall, after cancelling them last month.


  • Date: Monday Sept. 14
  • Location: Canada Summit Centre – 20 Park Drive, Huntsville
  • Time: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Individuals attending the drive-through testing must wear a mask, bring a valid health card, follow all instructional signage and remain in vehicle until Community Paramedics provide direction. If you are travelling from outside the Muskoka region, please consider getting tested at your local COVID-19 Assessment Centre as your first option.

The drive-through operation may, on short notice, be discontinued immediately if inclement weather approaches or it is unsafe to continue. Your understanding is appreciated.

Testing is still available by appointment for symptomatic people and asymptomatic people by calling your primary care provider or the MAHC COVID-19 Assessment Centre line at 1-888-383-7009.

When you arrive at the drive-through testing location, you will receive detailed information on how to get your results. The Assessment Centre/Community Paramedics do not have test results nor do they have control over the length of time it takes to process COVID-19 tests. Results can also be checked online using Ontario’s COVID-19 Test Results Viewer.

For recommended best practices on COVID-19 visit the Simcoe-Muskoka Public Health Unit’s webpage at

Muskoka’s two COVID assessment centres have been reduced to one new one at the Bracebridge hospital.



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