Image: MAHC was provided with $14M to get to the end of Stage Two but will need to show how it plans to raise the local share of the cost of building two new hospitals. Right now the local share is sitting at $74M (as per calculations from 2019).
At its September 26 meeting, Huntsville council was told that the needle on building two new hospitals in Muskoka has started to move.
“It’s come much closer to reality in the last six to eight months. We’re really excited within the hospital and now we need to work with our communities to take us the rest of the way there,” said Dave Uffelmann, vice chair of the hospital board and chair of the capital redevelopment steering committee.
He was before council with Algonquin Health Care CEO Cheryl Harrison by his side and a very clear message: failure to resolve how the local share of the project, currently at $74M, will be raised by the time they get to the functional program stage of the process (in approximately 12 months), will stop the new hospitals from proceeding.
Uffelmann noted Huntsville set aside $115,000 last year, the District a cumulative $1.6 M over two years and the Town of Bracebridge $230,000 over two years but more is needed.
Harrison took council through some photos and noted that the existing hospital infrastructure has become outdated. She said the emergency departments and diagnostic areas are half the size they should be in order to handle today’s patient volume and showed council renderings of what areas like the Emergency Department waiting room could look like. She said according to provincial standards, 85 per cent of hospital inpatient rooms should be private but at MAHC it’s more like 15 per cent.
Harrison spoke of the local share as a requirement to move forward with two new hospital builds.“The bottom line on local share is that the community must contribute according to a formula,” said Harrison, adding that in the Stage One proposal of the project three years ago, the local share was estimated at $74M in 2019 dollars. That figure included a $35M transfer of assets from the old hospitals as well as $20M from both the hospital foundations.
“Through Stage Two we will better understand the cost of future builds based on refined planning,” she told council.
Harrison said the market has changed since 2019 as a result of the pandemic, inflation, a rise in the cost of goods and services, materials, etc. “We will be working through a refreshed costing with the local share committee over the next several months and we are relying on our foundations, local municipalities, the district, and our own organization to raise the local share. We can’t let uncertainty prevent us from moving forward. At this point no one knows the exact amount of the local share nor exactly how much each entity will contribute,” said Harrison. “What we do know is that we have to satisfy the local share requirement and commit to how the community will pay for its share of the new hospitals. Setting aside funds now is far easier than putting it off to raise the same amount in half the time,” she said, adding that adjustments can be made once the actual costs become clear.
Councillors had a lot of questions. They wanted to know how MAHC’s capacity compared to other hospitals, what the next stage of planning involved, and whether current and future growth have or will be considered in the planning process. Others called the community funding portion needed as a moving target.
“I get that we don’t know what the number will be but what we need to do is make a commitment, it doesn’t have to be a commitment to a number, it has to be a commitment to the local share and that commitment has to come from the district-wide, from Muskoka, East Parry Sound, and the North. We don’t have to find the $75M here,” Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano told council.
In the end, council passed a resolution committing to helping fund the local share of the two hospital builds and asked staff to return with some options on how to do that.
Right now as the numbers stand, building both hospitals is estimated to cost about $580M, with the Ministry of Health contributing approximately $506M and Muskoka Algonquin Health Care, both the hospital foundations and municipalities and the community in general, pitching in approximately $74M (Local Share).
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