Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare’s redevelopment project for two new sites continues to move along as we work through what the Ministry refers to as the ‘Functional Program’ or Stage 1.3 of its capital planning process for hospitals until the early part of 2024. This stage of planning has three components:
- Program and service planning to meet the community’s future needs based on population projections, and considering future changes like expanded technology;
- Site selection for a new location for the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital (SMMH); and
- The financing plan for the community’s local share of $225 million of the $967 redevelopment project.
Most recently, MAHC’s greatest progress has been to evaluate various land options within the urban centre boundary of Bracebridge to identify a preliminary preferred site for a future SMMH Site. In Huntsville, the property at 100 Frank Miller Drive is large enough for them to build a new hospital on the existing land, so no site selection is necessary.
Having looked at more than 20 different properties identified through various consultations, five locations met the minimum land requirements to proceed to evaluation. The team evaluated the five properties against broad criteria for location and property, land use planning framework, and capital and servicing costs. Through the open houses and feedback survey, MAHC was grateful to receive community input on their criteria by hearing what was most important to people when considering a future location. MAHC heard from some that people a hospital should be located near downtown Bracebridge and the ability to access the property by means other than a vehicle, such as on foot or cycling should be part of the evaluation. They also heard that environmental impacts were key to consider as well. Environmental considerations have been part of the evaluation criteria from the beginning, but they have expanded the criteria to focus on protecting environmentally sensitive land and natural landscapes, such as avoiding clearcutting of trees and ensuring the new builds look and feel like Muskoka. Top of mind for many MAHC has engaged with is also how future construction will minimize climate change impacts.
The evaluation exercise found that each property had strengths and challenges, and a scoring process helped to rank their suitability for a hospital. MAHC has narrowed the five properties to three that are considered appropriate for a future hospital:
- 1975 Muskoka Beach Road across from Muskoka Brewery, (current preliminary preferred site);
- 300 Pine Street between Walmart and the fairgrounds; and
- Highway 118 West lands, located east of the Muskoka Hills retirement villa.
MAHC’s evaluation isn’t fully completed yet. They were pleased to revisit the communities again in April with a series of in-person and virtual information sessions to provide an update, take questions, and validate their findings to date. Thank you to everyone who attended, and if you weren’t able to join you can watch one of the presentations here.
MAHC are also having ongoing discussions with the Town of Bracebridge to further investigate the potential costs of the required municipal services for these three highest-ranked properties.
Over the next several weeks MAHC will be further validating the 1975 Muskoka Beach Road property, which includes further due diligence such as geotechnical and hydrogeological studies, cost estimates, environmental assessment, and site plan preparation.