Letter From MPP Graydon Smith To MAHC Requesting Withdrawal Of Motion To Proceed With Current Hospital Redevelopment Plan

July 2, 2024  

Mr. David Uffelman, Chair

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare   

South Muskoka Memorial Hospital Site

75 Ann Street, Bracebridge, ON P1L 2E4 

Dear Chair Uffelman and members of the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Board,  

Further to our telephone conversation this morning, I am writing to you to formally request that agenda item 2.1 set for the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Board (MAHC) meeting of July 2nd, 2024 be withdrawn immediately. I make this request in my role as MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, and as someone with extensive experience in the hospital redevelopment process over many years.

As a Mayor, I worked successfully for years with your predecessors, senior hospital management, the medical community, and others, to get the process of redevelopment to a point where all stakeholders were committed to an outcome which satisfied a myriad of points of view. It was not easy; however, the success of that approach led to financial commitments by the Provincial government, municipal governments and hospital foundations to financially support a two-site redevelopment model.  

More recently as MPP, I have called for everyone to draw a breath, analyze what was said in various meetings (and why) over the last several months and strike a path forward that works for everyone across Muskoka and Almaguin.  

I realize that much has changed, and continues to change, in both the worlds of healthcare service delivery and cost. Regardless, the commitment of dollars to this project by funders, especially the Province, exceeds what would be reasonably expected for communities of our size. This is an unprecedented opportunity for our communities, but moving forward with the current plan could jeopardize some municipal commitments, thereby putting any future redevelopment on shaky ground.  

Many in the medical community, primarily in South Muskoka, are wary or outright unsupportive of the plan. To be frank, too many physicians in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst have serious concerns with the current proposal. I have met with several of them and heard their concerns first-hand. Their wariness has extended deep into the general community. Not surprisingly, residents are looking to their doctors for guidance on whether the proposal is sufficient in meeting the needs of the community.   

I recognize there was a modification to your original proposal and, even after that modification, you indicated a willingness to further collaborate with stakeholders on their concerns. My understanding was that the Board’s offer to continue recent discussions with physicians was accepted in good faith, yet only days after a meeting with some physicians and local municipal representatives, this motion is being presented.  

Surely you understand that this action further erodes the level of trust necessary for the plan, and the Board, to be successful. A lack of trust in a Board tasked with such important work is both undesirable and untenable.   

I fully understand that this proposal has its supporters and that includes many within the medical community but, nevertheless, it is impractical and unwise to proceed in this manner when the Board is aware of such visceral opposition to the plan in one of the two primary catchment areas.  

Even if the technical merits are sound, the Board is supposed to make decisions on behalf of the communities it serves, not despite them. Making decisions that satisfy two communities that do not always see eye-to-eye is a tough job, but doing so is essential to achieving success.   

A saying of mine from my municipal time on this file still applies. Those involved in hospital decision making need to “look past the end of the driveway” when considering system changes. 

This means that the Board, while directly tasked with making hospital decisions, plays a larger, incredibly significant role in how communities grow, change, and function. This concept must be fully understood and reflected in decision making, even when it seems inconvenient.  

Mr. Chair, again, I urge you to withdraw the motion as presented. I also request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss how this exceptional opportunity to redevelop both hospitals in Muskoka can proceed with the support of all communities.   

As the proposal has been at a community level of planning, I have done my best to allow that process to play out and facilitate a solution where possible. That said, should the Board proceed with passing the motion as presented, I will not support the current redevelopment proposal.  


Graydon Smith  

MPP Parry Sound-Muskoka