MAHC Clarifies Future Healthcare Plans Amid Recent Misconceptions in Muskoka Region

April 26, 2024

Muskoka, ON — Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) is dedicated to dispelling misinformation and ensuring transparency regarding the future of healthcare in Muskoka. Our redevelopment plans, mandated by the Ministry of Health, are rooted in reliable data provided by the Ontario Ministry of Finance, drawn from Statistics Canada figures. This data forms the cornerstone of our planning efforts, guaranteeing that our services are meticulously aligned with the future healthcare needs of the community, with quality care as our primary focus.

“At MAHC, we are deeply committed to transparently transforming healthcare in Muskoka through meticulous planning and significant investment,” said Cheryl Harrison, CEO. “This commitment, rooted in sound data and research, extends beyond just maintaining services; we are enhancing and expanding, ensuring both hospital sites are equipped to offer superior care well into the future.”

Addressing Some Misconceptions:

Population Growth and Healthcare Planning

There is a misconception that MAHC has not considered population growth in our redevelopment plans. This is not the case. Our planning mandate requires us to use population data provided by the Ontario Ministry of Finance, derived from Statistics Canada as the only validated and permitted data sources for planning. We have taken this data a step further by analyzing it at the municipal level for both Bracebridge and Huntsville. Additionally, this granular demographic data has been combined with utilization data from our own hospitals, which tracks the frequency and types of services used, helping us understand average annual care requirements. This dual approach ensures that every aspect of our service planning is informed and robust, enabling us not only to meet but to exceed the future healthcare needs of Muskoka’s growing population.

“By integrating comprehensive population data with real-time utilization feedback from our facilities, we are not guessing but planning with precision to meet and exceed the health demands of Muskoka’s growing population”, said Harrison.

SMMH and HDMH to Remain Full-Service Hospitals

Contrary to some claims, both hospital sites of MAHC will remain full-service hospitals and will also undergo significant enhancements in services due to the $1 billion investment from the province. This funding will expand the range and quality of healthcare, including upgrades to the 24/7 Emergency Department, ICU (including a Level 3 ICU), and surgical services. Additionally, the introduction of specialized care units or centres of excellence will further enhance the hospitals’ capabilities, ensuring they meet the future health needs of the community.

Understanding Bed Numbers and Healthcare Delivery

In our initial plan, bed numbers at both Bracebridge and Huntsville were strategically aligned with acute and Alternative Level of Care (ALC) needs, drawing from comprehensive demographic studies and population projections from the Ministry of Finance. However, it’s essential to recognize that bed numbers alone are not a definitive measure of successful or adequate healthcare. Our plan encompasses a holistic regional health system approach, incorporating community-based care models and specialized services, ensuring that the proposed bed numbers will be more than sufficient.

Following consultations with physicians, staff, and the community, we have adjusted the bed numbers. This revised allocation, although deviating from our initial data-driven plan, has undergone preliminary testing indicating that it will meet and exceed the needs of the communities that we serve. It is important to note that while these changes reflect our commitment to integrating stakeholder feedback, approval from the Ministry of Health for these revisions is not guaranteed. This underscores the need for flexibility in our future planning to maintain exceptional healthcare services as community needs evolve.

Managing Patient Transfers Effectively

Hospital transfers are standard practice across Ontario to ensure patients receive specialized care when necessary. With the newly revised plan, both hospitals will be equipped to handle a wider range of healthcare needs locally, significantly reducing the need for transfers. When transfers are necessary for specialized care unavailable locally, they are managed carefully to ensure patient safety and optimal outcomes.

Impact on Physician Recruitment

The $1 billion investment in our health system is set to completely revolutionize care within our region, bringing modern, state-of-the-art facilities to MAHC. This substantial upgrade under the redevelopment plan includes the introduction of specialized care units or centres of excellence. These advancements are specifically designed to attract and retain top medical professionals by significantly enhancing our infrastructure. By integrating these specialist units, we aim to establish MAHC as a premier, attractive workplace for healthcare providers. These improvements will not only cater to a broad range of medical professionals but are also targeted at specialists seeking advanced, supportive environments for their practice.

Discussions with our education partners, including the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), indicate that the proposed health system design will attract students and support recruitment given the specialization of the structure. This visionary approach is expected to transform the landscape of healthcare service delivery in our community, setting new standards of excellence and care.

In the Words of a Local Healthcare Provider

“I work in our current hospital alongside my physician and healthcare colleagues. We are barely hanging on in a collapsing healthcare system. We can see that the way we deliver health care locally is no longer viable, nor will it support health care for future generations… We need to dream big, get creative and then implement innovative solutions to make this work. We have to do this for each other as healthcare providers; as patients who receive care in our healthcare system; and for the sustainability of healthcare for many years to come”.

-Dr. Rich Trenholm, Family Physician

No Reduction in Service Scope at SMMH

It is crucial to clarify that neither hospital site will become ambulance transfer stations or be reduced to lesser facilities. Both sites will continue to provide essential hospital services as they currently do, and any adjustments in services or structures are strategically aimed at enhancing care delivery and patient outcomes. These enhancements are designed to not only meet but exceed the community’s healthcare needs, ensuring that both sites offer improved, superior care environments for all patients.

Continued Commitment to Community Engagement

MAHC values transparency and remains committed to maintaining an open dialogue with all stakeholders, including the public, local governments, and healthcare providers. Although the redevelopment plan is not a product of co-creation, stakeholder feedback is a crucial element of our process. This engagement helps guide the development of our new health system and assess the functionality of the proposed plans. By actively incorporating this input, we ensure that our strategies are not only evidence-based but also responsive to the community’s evolving needs.

Equitable Healthcare Across Muskoka

Both hospital sites are vital components of our healthcare system in Muskoka. Plans are carefully crafted to ensure equitable distribution of services and resources across the region, considering current and projected needs. MAHC bases all service planning on solid demographic projections and best practices in healthcare to meet both current and future needs. We encourage our community to reach out with any concerns or questions as we move forward with our plans to enhance local healthcare services.

“Because of the integral role of small and rural hospitals within their communities, keeping pace with the increasing demand for health care services is critical. This will require ingenuity and the courage to redefine the way care has been traditionally delivered to enhance capacity, reduce duplication, expand care services, and optimize the use of existing resources”.

– President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association Anthony Dale.

Next Steps

Stakeholder engagement sessions will be extended to the end of June and include continued discussion with internal staff, physicians, community groups and the broader public. This will allow ample time for further refinement of the functional program, architectural and engineering implications, and costing of the newly revised model for submission to the ministry in the fall.

For more information on frequently asked questions, visit our website at or contact:

Bobbie Clark (she/her)

Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare

705-789-2311 x 2711