MAHC Endorses One Hospital Model

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The Board of Directors for Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare has endorsed one acute care hospital centrally located as the model that will ensure the best quality and safest delivery of hospital services that will be sustainable for future generations served by MAHC.

The decision was made during a special meeting of the Board on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 following a unanimous recommendation from the ad-hoc steering committee that has overseen the planning work for the past two years.

“The Board of Directors is responsible for identifying a preferred model that provides the best access to high-quality services, and delivers sustainable health care for future generations of MAHC’s service population. The future of health care is of critical importance to all of us and the selection of the preferred model is a decision that has not been taken lightly by the Board,” says Board Chair Charles Forret. “The one-hospital model best meets the objective of protecting the viability of services in the future with flexibility for growth, while creating a stable environment that attracts and retains physicians and offers optimal working conditions that helps recruit staff.”

The planning process leading to the determination of the preferred model has included extensive input from staff, physicians, local leaders, qualified experts, and from all corners of the community. A full analysis of every option has been completed. The Board has weighed the advantages and disadvantages, key issues and assessment of each model under consideration.

“One of the biggest concerns has been travel times. I want to assure you that MAHC is committed to being an active partner in health integration efforts and transportation initiatives that improve access to care in our community,” Forret explains. “The Board’s endorsement of one acute care hospital as the preferred model is for the future and should not be viewed as changes that will happen tomorrow. We will continue to refine the model during the next decade as we proceed through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care capital planning stages so that it best meets our mission to provide high-quality, safe health care that is sustainable. And in the meantime, MAHC’s two sites will continue to be here to provide you with outstanding, patient- and family-centered care.”

Phil Matthews, Board Director and steering committee co-chair, adds the committee’s work revealed that redeveloping two full service acute facilities would not provide sustainable health care for the future. A two-site model not only financially burdens future generations of taxpayers, but also is not consistent with Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care trends.

“In the one-hospital model we best achieve quality and safety all under one roof within a financially sustainable model both initially and from an operating perspective,” says Matthews. “As our buildings continue to age, community demographics change, technology advances, and new demands are made of the provincial health care system, the steering committee acknowledged that the status quo of two acute care sites is not the best option for sustainable health care in the year 2030 and beyond. We know that the Province of Ontario is transforming the health care system through investments in community health care services like health hubs and nursing stations. The way we take care of people in the future will be different from a systems perspective and hospitals are being encouraged to focus on acute care services with less financial support.”

Completing this visionary work has been an objective of MAHC’s Strategic Plan since 2012, adds Forret. With the Board’s endorsement of a preferred model, MAHC will revise its Pre-Capital Submission by July 1, 2015 and present the submission to the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). Once the LHIN endorses the plan, it is then submitted to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Capital Planning Branch for its review. Following Ministry support for the model, MAHC will begin the next step in the capital planning process, a Stage 1 submission, which includes more detailed planning. In addition, site selection for the preferred model is a lengthy process that will target a central location that provides the best access to care for MAHC’s service population. It will be subject to criteria that have yet to be developed and Broader Public Sector guidelines.

“We need to be prudent and transparent about what the future should look like and without a Ministry recognized and approved plan for the future of our facilities or land, we cannot pursue any development opportunities with other partners,” Forret says. “The ad-hoc steering committee has done a tremendous amount of work to help the Board reach this decision. I thank each staff member, physician and partner for their involvement in this planning process during the past two years.”

Natalie Bubela, Chief Executive Officer at MAHC, reinforces the fact that a preferred model for the future is strictly Board direction at this point. There are no plans to close either hospital in the meantime.

“The board direction is for the future. Our current two acute care sites will continue to be here for our residents, cottagers and visitors for many years to come,” says Bubela. “As we move forward knowing this direction, our communities can expect the same high-quality care they have received in the past. It will be equally important for our communities to continue to support the hospitals and invest in both of our sites today to improve patient care now. With current capital needs of more than $13 million, we always need the public’s support as our need for vital medical equipment is constant and we rely on our Foundations and Auxiliaries to help us obtain new equipment.”

The Decision Support Document presented by the Master Program/Master Plan Ad-Hoc Steering Committee with the recommendation of the Committee is attached below.