Ford announces $14 million for Muskoka hospitals

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in Huntsville on Sunday to announce $14 million in funding for the planning phase of the proposed redevelopment of two Muskoka hospitals.

The allocated funds will go toward what Ford described as a plan to modernize, rebuild and expand both Huntsville District Memorial Hospital and South Muskoka Memorial Hospital.

Upon completion, the redevelopment in both communities will add 50 new beds to the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) system, the premier said. That will translate to 140 available beds at MAHC upon completion.

“It’s time you get the modern hospital capacity you desperately need,” Ford said. The funds will cover things like design work.

Vickie Kaminski, interim president and CEO of MAHC, said facility renovations at both hospitals have been a long time coming, indicating that the foundations of both hospitals “have already begun plans to raise money to support the hospital’s refurbishment.” in both communities.

She said the anticipated timeline between the planning phase and the shovels in the ground could be five to six years.

“We have to go through a complete site selection, site preparation; all of that work needs to be done before we can start building,” Kaminski said.

“We may bring some of the existing equipment into those facilities,” Kaminski said, adding that both remodeled hospitals will be full-service acute care sites, equipped with emergency rooms, intensive care units and inpatient beds.

She said the pandemic has exposed gaps in care and rebuilding at both sites “shows us the promise of the future, with contemporary hospitals located in Bracebridge and Huntsville.”

Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano told the Star that the planning stage will determine the full scope of the project.

“The essence of the message is that there will be new, or remodeling, or a combination of both in both places,” he said.

She said Bracebridge may require new land for construction, but the existing Huntsville site has room for expansion and redevelopment, but all of that has yet to be determined.

Ford alluded to the province spending $1 billion ($500 million each) for the refurbishment. Terziano said that these figures have been floated by the province, and “then there will be a local participation, that must be added.”

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith called the planned redevelopment “a game changer for our region. This allows our communities to continue to grow and prosper.”

The emergency departments of both hospitals treat a total of 45,000 patients each year, the prime minister said.

Jason Miller is a reporter for the Star based in Toronto, covering crime and justice in the Peel region. Contact him at email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

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