Nurses Know Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Cuts Must Be Stopped, Vow To Continue To Fight Alongside Residents


The following was written by Ruth Shaw, RN.

“Muskoka residents are privileged to live in a beautiful community. Yet, the proposal from Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) to cut and transfer services out of Bracebridge has ignited a solidarity among residents and the nurses who provide care that is uplifting to witness. 

Under the guise of reducing duplication of services, the MAHC plan is to cut an intensive care unit bed from Bracebridge, cut acute care beds from 67 to 18, move the rest of acute care to the Huntsville site, and cut obstetrics services – including the labour and delivery plan – from Bracebridge. Surgical services in Bracebridge will be limited to mostly day surgeries for outpatients. With this proposal, the Huntsville hospital will lose its Chemotherapy department, which will be moved to the South Muskoka Site. 

Local registered nurses (RNs) and health-care professionals are fighting these cuts just as passionately as other residents are, right alongside neighbours, family, friends – and patients. 

I am a proud registered nurse serving the communities of Muskoka for 22 years and currently the Bargaining Unit President of Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 17, where I represent more than 200 RNs at MAHC. Muskoka has been my home for 24 years. My five grandchildren were all born in Muskoka hospitals.

I have worked as an Intensive Care Unit RN at MAHC for 13 years. I have also worked at the bedside in the obstetrics unit in South Muskoka and at the Huntsville site in the ER and Med-Surg, both before and after the amalgamation of the two hospitals.

Being an RN or health-care professional comes with enormous responsibilities, and we all take them very seriously. Obstetrical nurses are educated, skilled, knowledgable and dedicated. I know that it is a privilege to be present as an obstetrics nurse as individuals become families, help labouring women through the experience of giving birth, and help couples and families transition from birth to home by providing quality post-partum care and building a trusting, therapeutic relationship. The proposal to close the obstetrics unit at the Bracebridge site disappoints and horrifies us, for many reasons.   

Closure means that parents-to-be face a 41-km or longer drive to the Huntsville site. Is it fair to have to drive that far, in possibly stormy and hazardous driving conditions, to give birth? The Board’s proposal to move OB services is contrary to the evidence about safety – the Journal of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology says that, “Women who reside in rural and remote communities in Canada should receive high-quality maternity care as close to home as possible.”  

When I lived in Parry Sound, I gave birth to five children, all delivered safely in a rural hospital that has fewer babies delivered in one year than either hospital in Muskoka has. I know firsthand how important it is to have maternity care close to home – from my professional and personal experience.

If the hospital’s proposal moves forward, there will be a huge cascade effect, including cuts of further services such as surgical and emergency services. Women’s health care will suffer, and more family doctors will consider leaving.   

Women in the South Muskoka area will face increased risks from having to deliver their babies outside the community, including social/psychological stress, financial strains, and more. If the cuts proceed, there is a high likelihood of Bracebridge staff cuts, at a time when the nursing shortage has surpassed crisis levels. 

Huntsville is facing cuts to diagnostic imaging procedures, chemotherapy treatments, endoscopies and surgical and procedural visits. Perhaps the provincial government plans to send these patients to the corporate, for-profit private clinics it is touting, at a much higher cost to taxpayers? 

Alongside residents, I have participated in town halls. My colleagues and I are dismayed and disappointed at the employer’s proposal of the ‘Made in Muskoka’ model. 

I want to be clear: both Huntsville and Bracebridge need and deserve full health-care services. Your RNs support our community in the fight to say NO to these proposals. As those on the front lines, we have been doing more with less for too long. Good care is local care and we stand with you to fight for our community’s health. 

‘Made in Muskoka’ or made elsewhere, this proposal is simply bad medicine. Don’t give up the fight to save local services.”


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