Sensible access to health care is the number one issue for those approaching retirement. It’s not just about an emergency room or the impersonal technology of acute care, it’s frequent visits to patients by friends and spouses. It’s not having to drive on a snowy highway for hospital appointments. It’s about caring for people you know and trusting you will be cared for too.
It’s about community.
For the past three years, we’ve been working towards retiring to the wonderful community of Huntsville; now we are absolutely stunned that the hospital is closing.
Closing the hospital is gutting the community. For retirees, it’s like closing the schools or the cod fishery: those already there may stay, but no one is going to move there.
It doesn’t matter that [the closure] is not for fifteen years, it will just be closing when we need it. Talk from the board about possibly cooperating with unnamed potential future transportation providers to provide some unspecified services means absolutely nothing.
What’s worse, the risks don’t start when the hospital closes, the risks start now. Should we still buy, when prices for year-round homes look likely to fall? Will we build relationships in the community, only to be forced to move again when we’re older?
Uncertainty kills other investments, too. Will other businesses and services still be there? Baysville and Bala are pretty but tiny, is that Huntsville’s future?
Then there’s the care itself – bigger is not always better. We’ve already been through disastrous hospital amalgamations in the city. Waiting lists grow longer, waiting rooms grow bigger, executive salaries go through the roof and in our experience patient care plummets.
Without the hybrid approach that retains core services in both communities, either Bracebridge or Huntsville is going to be mortally wounded.
The only thing that could be more damaging is to put the hospital somewhere else and risk destroying both communities. And no, wonderful though it is, doctors aren’t going to flock to Utterson and they won’t drive through snowstorms for months every winter, either. Doctors want to be part of communities, too, and it will make Muskoka less attractive professionally, not more.
Damaged communities and a dysfunctional hospital: this is not sensible health care. To us, as potential residents of Huntsville, this looks like a disaster that threatens the very future of Muskoka.
The provincial government has already said it is covering its ears because ‘the Board has spoken’. The people of Muskoka need to yell loud enough that the government will hear anyway.