Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare – Bracebridge Meeting

On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 members of the MRA attended a public meeting held at the Bracebridge Sportsplex Auditorium on the Proposed Budget Initiatives being put forth by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) ~ which is comprised of South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge (SMMH) and Huntsville District Memorial Hospital (HDMH). In attendance were hospital board members Mr. Larry Saunders and Mrs. Evelyn Brown, Chief Executive Officer Mrs. Natalie Bubela and Chief Financial Officer Mr. Tim Smith. Public attendance was so high an adjacent room had to be opened.

With cuts being made at the provincial level of health care, MAHC is anticipating a funding gap of $2.4 million dollars in their 2013 – 2014 budget, which is a problem as hospitals are legally required to run a balanced budget. According to Mrs. Bubela there has been a 4 to 6 week internal consultation period to compile data from nurses, front line staff, physicians, volunteers and hospital foundations. Mr. Smith spoke about why these changes were occurring; how they intend to find a more efficient ways of providing and preserving services and that a proposed solution is to “single site” some services. The current proposed solution is to single site Complex Continuing Care to SMMH, Chemotherapy Day Clinic to HDMH, and Ophthalmology to SMMH and through phasing, cut Acute Care beds by 5 at HDMH and 10 at SMMH. Thankfully both SMMH and HDMH will continue to maintain their Obstetrics and Emergency departments.

Following the presentation the floor was opened for questions where members of the public and at least five local doctors spoke. Mrs. Bubela stated that she was taking note of the comments/questions being posed so they could be revisited at a later date. A large majority of the questions/comments that were posed pertained to how detrimental to patients it would be to have to travel to HDMH for chemotherapy treatments, how they would lose contact with their primary doctor, how it is not just the staff in the chemotherapy department but “the team” of doctors, nurses, technicians who help patients. People spoke about the wonderful care they received at SMMH, that the town is growing, that SMMH services an area larger than HDMH, that ambulances at times cannot unload their patients at the ER due to a lack of bed….. One doctor pointed out that the reality is that there is a short fall and a solution must be found on how to close the gap. It was suggested that members of the community write to the local MPP, Norm Miller voicing their comments and concerns.

Although it was a community meeting and he had not intended to speak, Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith pointed out that there was a fundamental problem as MAHC only had two board members in attendance to hear what was being said. He stated that he could not hold a council meeting with two members and do “do diligence”. Bracebridge Council had rescheduled one of their council meetings, in order that the entire council could attend the public meeting. Unfortunately, we did not see any representatives from the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council at the meeting.

Both Mr. Saunders and Mrs. Bubela provided answers to questions and thanked the public for their questions and comments. When it was brought forth that perhaps a cut in management would be appropriate, Mrs. Bubela stated she is committed to reduce management. MAHC is looking for solutions and input on how to balance their budget. More information about MAHC can be found on their website, or contact Allyson Snelling, Executive and Communications Assistant at

Please take a few minutes and submit any thoughts, ideas, suggestions and/or comments regarding how The District of Muskoka can help find solutions to this funding gap.