Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

MUSKOKA — There may be at least some key movements on the hospitals front.

A closed meeting Wednesday night in Utterson between the MAHC board and credentialed staff associations members indicates the two opposing sides may yet find more middle grounds, several sources tell MuskokaTODAY.com.

Doctors in south Muskoka said this week they were going in to the meeting “cautiously optimistic.”

It seems their open-mindedness has paid off.

MAHC will include more the 14 inpatient beds at the Bracebridge site than it originally planned in February. But they would still be fewer than there now.

Speaking on condition as they are not authorized to comment, MuskokaTODAY.com has learned that “MAHC has agreed to give more beds, now 36 acute care beds.”

But they would still be fewer than there now.

However, physicians in south Muskoka are likely going to ask for more at the Bracebridge site, as they typically require around 40-45 acute care beds.

They are also still hoping to get more ICU beds at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital, which currently sees SMMH at 4 with MAHC’s proposed model.

And they would ideally aim for 5 or 6. At present there 5 ICU beds there.

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare said it would make a statement and/or announcement Thursday.

In it they CEO and president Cheryl Harrison added little beyond.

“We are optimistic about the positive and collaborative nature of our discussions tonight,” said: “We are getting closer to alignment on a proposal that is integrated, patient-centred, and sustainable. We still have work to do, and we are grateful to those who continue to work closely with us to inform a plan that best suits our community.”

Their release said the group reviewed data related to the planning process and the ‘Care Close to Home’ model put forth by some South Muskoka physicians in February of this year; of which preliminary costing falls well outside the budget parameters set by the Ministry and local share funders. Session discussion included concepts such as adding more beds and preserving labour and delivery obstetrical services at the Bracebridge site.

On Monday MAHC said surprisingly it was willing to consider keeping birthing services in south Muskoka and adding more beds there.

In February they shocked the communities of both Huntsville and south Muskoka proposing the south Muskoka site could have as few as 14 inpatient beds.

So the latest move looks a bit more promising.

But may not be what the public has been calling for in two equal fully-functioning hospitals.

Dr. Scott Whynot, a Bracebridge doctor, said before the meeting that there must be a way to make $1 billion work for two hospitals.

No further staff or public meetings have been announced by to offer more information.

The hospitals board says they intend to make their final submission to the province by the end of the year.

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