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Hundreds of people attend MAHC hospital proposal meeting in Bracebridge

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Over 300 people attended a second meeting in Bracebridge Monday night to hear about Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare's (MAHC) hospital redevelopment proposal.

Hundreds of people attended the last meeting on Feb. 6, voicing their concerns over the controversial plan, which would divide specific services between the Bracebridge and Huntsville facilities. Residents and health care workers, including physicians, have opposed the plan, saying dividing the services would limit health care access to many.

The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) voiced concern about the plan and what it could mean to those living in Muskoka.

"I think that they need to go back to the drawing board, and instead of having the decision made in the hands of a few, the community spoke loud and clear last week they are just not confident that this new plan is going to service the same way they've expected and the demands have needed for the last several years," said Grace Pierias, ONA.

In an email to CTV News on Monday, Lehman stated that MAHC would need to "go back to the table to find a "better-balanced model."

"This plan is not going to work for the communities of South Muskoka," Lehman wrote. "With a major fundraising effort ahead, and given this is the largest project that will be built in Muskoka in the next 10 years, we need a plan that will work for all of Muskoka."

Lehman noted that while the expansion plan promises enhancements such as expanded emergency departments and a level 3 ICU, concerns prevail regarding the potential loss of essential services.

MAHC has indicated both hospitals would have intensive care units and surgical centres, but Bracebridge will have 14 inpatient beds while Huntsville will have 139.

Lehman hopes the province affords MAHC the necessary time to refine the expansion model "without the funding being at risk."

"There are a full six years to go before the ground is broken on construction, so let's take the time now to get the plan right and get all of Muskoka back onboard. These hospitals are such a critical part of our future," he concluded.

"Both towns are deserving of two new hospitals. I am confident that a more balanced and equitable plan can be achieved," stated Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith.

Several hundred people also attended the meeting virtually.

Residents in attendance had a chance to ask questions and make comments to the MAHC board.

MAHC says it will take all of the comments and input into consideration before making a final decision.

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