The Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) Board of Directors is supporting a proposal to build new hospitals in Huntsville and Bracebridge in the future, up to 15 years from now.
At its October 10 meeting, the Board endorsed the recommendation from the Capital Plan Development Task Force to approve for submission to the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (NSM LHIN) and Ministry of Health a future redevelopment that proposes a new hospital on the existing Huntsville site, and a new hospital on new land in Bracebridge. The preferred options recommendation is the result of 12 months of comprehensive study by the 23-member Task Force, which with broad representation including local physicians, both hospital foundations and auxiliaries and municipal representatives from north and south Muskoka, East Parry Sound and the District of Muskoka evaluated five different ways to redevelop the Two Acute Sites service delivery model.
“Having carefully reviewed and analyzed the report from the Task Force, the Board agrees with the recommendation that two new hospitals is the best option for our future generations that gives Muskoka and area the acute care facilities our communities want and ultimately require for the next 50 years,” says Board Chair Phil Matthews.
The preferred options presented to the Board scored the highest following the Task Force’s evaluation process. The evaluation demonstrated a new hospital on the existing Huntsville site, and a new hospital on new land in Bracebridge for the South Muskoka site best support the high-quality patient- and family-centered care MAHC strives to deliver now and in the future. The preferred options also best enable innovation, future flexibility and operational excellence, among other findings of the options analysis and scoring.
Matthews says the Board, like the Task Force, recognized that a renovation/expansion option may be cheaper, but is not the most cost effective or ideal redevelopment approach when the impacts on staff and patients and operating costs of renovation are considered.
“We’ve been through enough renovations at each site to know they significantly challenge normal operations, impact patient safety and flow, and do not create a healing environment nor effective workplaces for our staff and physicians,” adds CEO Natalie Bubela. “If we tried to chunk out a renovation/expansion into phases, each project phase would have to go through the five-stage capital planning process that our aging buildings can’t wait for. And there is no guarantee that subsequent phases would be approved. The human, indirect costs that are impossible to quantify in numbers are greater with a renovation/expansion.”
Across Ontario, the Ministry of Health funds 90% of the construction cost of hospital redevelopment, while the local community is responsible for the remaining 10% plus any furniture, fixtures and equipment for the facilities, collectively known as the “local share”.
“We recognize that cost and affordability of such investments in our children’s and grandchildren’s future health care is a concern in the community,” says Matthews. “But the Task Force’s evaluation considered all of the important factors for sound hospital redevelopment, not just the cost.”
He applauds the Task Force for striking a Local Share Working Group of area mayors, the District Chair and representatives of both foundations that met over the past six months to collectively discuss how the local share could be funded over time.
“By rigorously reviewing and scrutinizing initial cost estimates from the cost consultant, MAHC has reduced the estimated local share to $129 million for two new hospitals. Further detailed study of current hospital furniture, fixtures and equipment, and the projected usage and replacement of these assets has helped us project that MAHC will be able to transfer $35 million of furniture, fixtures and equipment to future hospitals,” says Matthews. “I’m encouraged that our Foundations studied their ability to fundraise special capital funds and together are prepared to raise $20 million for redevelopment, in addition to ongoing annual multi-million dollar contributions to replace current equipment and technology. That leaves a potential local share of $74 million to be funded over 15 years. There are resolutions of support from municipal councils in principle to contribute to the local share. With those commitments we can satisfy the Ministry’s requirements, at this stage, for the financing plan.”
The detailed mechanics of how the $74 million could be raised are being explored at the municipal and district levels. But as a simplified example to illustrate the potential magnitude, spreading the balance across 50,000 households over 15 years would cost each household approximately $8 a month.
With the Board’s endorsement to build two new hospitals with the best information available today, MAHC will complete the Stage 1 Proposal for submission to the NSM LHIN and Ministry of Health by the end of 2019 and await approval to continue on to the next stage in the Ministry’s capital planning process. At each stage, the planning gets more refined and MAHC is committed to revisiting all projections including cost estimates, as required by the Ministry.
“We are excited to bring this decision to a close and look forward to working with our communities to make this plan a reality,” says Matthews. “Together, we can ensure MAHC is positioned with facilities that support outstanding integrated health care to our communities with exemplary standards and compassion. Thank you to all those who have given countless hours to our capital planning that will benefit our communities for decades to come.”