Huntsville councillor Tim Withey; Stop the madness, 2 new hospitals are not in Muskoka’s future

Tim Withey

As I was preparing for the Huntsville Town Council meeting that took place on Monday evening, Sept. 23 an item in the agenda jumped out at me.

Down in section 10.3 under ‘New Business’ there was a report attached for information only. 

It was entitled - Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Capital Plan Development Task Force Update #29.

It referenced a recent meeting of the Task Force that took place on Sept.  12. The document went on to state that the Task Force had finally, after 25 months, (and presumably spending all of the $500,000 given to them by the LHIN) come to a decision to present to the MAHC (Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Board) on Oct. 10 at their next board meeting in Bracebridge.

The recommendation was unanimous they added;

1. New hospital build on current land for the Huntsville site

2. New Hospital build on new land for the South Muskoka site. 

Included in the package was the full document which included a costing spreadsheets from the consultant they hired, Hanscomb Limited out of Hamilton.

According to their figures the cost of the two new buildings will be in the range of $550,000,000 in today’s dollars. 

The local share, which means we the residents who live here must pay for, will be around $150,000,000!

And to be clear, this will not be covered by donations from wealthy patrons. What will happen is that the local municipalities will be tasked with making up the local share, and that means increased taxes. This doesn’t even discuss the unlikelihood that the province will spend almost $600,000,000 on our relatively small population.

Currently in Windsor, Ontario they are building a new hospital in place of two existing locations. The local share of $200,000,000 has been divided up between the two levels of municipal governments. $90,000,000 for the lower tier (or the town level in our case) and $110,000,000 for the upper tier (the District level). The important difference here is that the population in this area is 400,000. In our case the $210,000,000 would be divided among some 60,000 people.

You can click on the link below to see the Task Force update:

This past week Ms. Natalie Bubela, CEO of MAHC and Mr. Cameron Renwick, Chair of the Capital Task Force felt it necessary to go on YourTV to rebut my comments. Mr. Renwick began by saying that I was entitled to my opinion but that he didn’t agree with it. He stated further, when asked about the cost, that they really didn’t know yet. He also stated that the new builds wouldn’t be happening for some time so I guess he thinks it’s ok that our children and grandchildren will be paying for it.

Please click on the link below to find the cost analysis for each option the Task Force considered:

This document contains everything one needs to know about how much this recommendation costs, why state that its’ unknown. 

Furthermore, when asked about renovating the Huntsville site on an as needed basis, Ms. Bubela mentioned seismic activity as a deterrent. Earthquakes!

A local engineer told me that the hospital lands are largely bedrock and therefore not subject to this activity.

In conclusion I fear that as MAHC moves on to the next stage of the Capital Planning process it will become abundantly clear that two new hospitals are not in our future. Back to the drawing board and discussions about where to locate the one new hospital building will commence.

I say stop the madness now and work on capital replacement in terms of renovation on an as needed basis. If you need to build new, build an adjacent building for office administration only which would be cheaper to build and return our existing hospital in Huntsville back to patient care where it once was.

Tim Withey is a district and town councillor for the town of Huntsville.

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