With provincial government support for two new hospitals, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) is commencing the next stage of the Ministry of Health’s capital planning process for hospitals.
“This is an exciting time for MAHC to continue the momentum of Premier Doug Ford’s announcement in April,” says Moreen Miller, Chair of the MAHC Board of Directors. “The Board is grateful to have provincial grant money specifically to continue our planning journey. We are thrilled that our vision to reimagine local health care with anew hospital on the existing land in Huntsville, and a new hospital on new land in Bracebridge is moving closer to reality.”
In Stage 1.3 of the Ministry’s process, known as the Functional Program, the planning to meet the communities’ future needs becomes more refined, as well as the space required to deliver safe, high-quality care.
“We know today that our hospitals are too small and too old, and our communities deserve better for future generations,” says MAHC President & CEO Cheryl Harrison. “More detailed program and service planning will occur between now and December 2023 to ensure our two new sites meet the future health care needs of patients and families in Muskoka and East Parry Sound, while also being affordable for the community.”
In September, the MAHC Board formed a Capital Redevelopment Steering Committee to provide governance oversight for the planning work. MAHC has also established a Capital Redevelopment Operations Committee comprised of members of MAHC’s leadership team, physician leaders, hospital foundation representatives, and project consultants to work through the Stage 1.3 requirements, reporting to and making recommendations to the Board’s steering committee. User groups made up of MAHC team members, patients, family members, caregivers, community partners and stakeholders will be directly involved in this stage through a series of engagement sessions.
“Community feedback has shaped our plan for two new hospital sites and the Ford government supports our plan,” says Harrison. “Now we will work closely with our teams to describe future services in greater detail, the staffing required, and work through the physical space planning – moving from where we left off with generalized spaces to more in-depth diagrams as we reimagine Muskoka’s hospitals.”
The work in this stage will also help to better understand the magnitude of the cost of the future builds and establish a committed approach to how the total project, including equipment needs, will be funded. A significant focus over the next year will be securing the funding commitments required to satisfy the Ministry’s requirement for how the community will pay for the “local share” of the project that the Province does not cover.
“We know that by the time we are at the stage of building the two new hospital sites, construction costs will have increased,” says Miller. “In the past three years, a lot has changed. The preliminary estimates from the earlier planning stages will be refreshed to reflect the changed environment and the effects we have all seen result from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are eager to continue our dialogue with area municipalities and our Foundations which we are relying on to raise the local share. Without a formal plan to raise the local share, our project will not move forward.”
MAHC hopes to submit the Functional Program by the end of 2023. To learn more about this stage of planning and to follow along in their journey, visit www.mahc.ca/planning-for-the-future.