Looking to the future of our hospitals

Cameron Renwick


It’s a tough job – and there’s no crystal ball.

As the community wrestles with the future of their beloved hospitals 20 years down the road, the path to tomorrow is entangled with dauntingly thorough research, public consultations and difficult decisions.

At the helm of this challenge is Cameron Renwick, the chair of the task force that will make a preferred model recommendation to the board of Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC). Renwick has been a board member since 2013 and is currently the chair of the MAHC board’s strategic planning committee.

Why is MAHC looking so far ahead? Renwick explains: “Because we have to. The province requires all hospitals to follow its capital planning process for redevelopment projects over $10 million. Our buildings are getting old; we are bursting at the seams; the sites are unable to expand to meet future needs without an approved capital plan.

Both hospitals are in need of immediate repairs and require large investments as they continue to age. They aren’t easily adaptable to evolving best practices for infection control, to housing new and advanced equipment or medical technology, and addressing the needs of patients and their loved ones.

“In approving us to move to the next stage of their planning process, the Ministry asked us to continue exploring the options along with looking at the potential of shifting services from the hospital to the community,” says Renwick.

The board directed the creation of a task force to oversee a new chapter in MAHC’s planning work. The task force includes 25 members, who Renwick believes, well-represent the community, from municipal representatives to local physicians, foundations and auxiliaries, and community stakeholders.

For the past seven months, the group has been studying the two-site models in more detail. Through consultation with hospital clinicians, community health care providers, municipalities and others, the task force has recently arrived at the programs and services that are proposed in each of the three different models.

“Community input played a role too,” said Renwick. “Because of this input, we’ve ensured both of the two-site models would have Emergency Departments at each site. One of those models, (the Two Acute Sites model) further includes core services like general surgery, obstetrics and intensive care at each site, just like they do today.”

Yet, despite its unpopularity, the one-site model remains an option, Renwick explains, “The Ministry requires a thorough review of all potential models with no stone unturned. We need to say we looked at everything and make our case for a preferred model having compared every option. We are doing the work required and no decisions have been made.”

The next step is for each task force member to evaluate the three models using five criteria that they’ve also just finished defining. These criteria are posted on the MAHC website, and in brief include: patient and family-centred care; financial implications; alignment with health care system future directions; municipal impact; and community support. More information about the work of the task force and background of the future planning can be found at www.mahc.ca/planning-for-the-future.