Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Message to our Communities About COVID-19

This has been a difficult, unprecedented and extraordinary time for everyone. I would like to express my confidence in all members of the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) team and share my utmost gratitude to all of our staff and physicians for their dedication to hospital care for our communities. We assure our communities that both hospital sites have measures in place to protect the health of our patients, staff and physicians. While things may be done differently during this time, please know that our team remains dedicated to treating everyone with care and respect. Some of the steps we have taken to ensure everyone’s safety include:
  • Initiating an emergency response to a pandemic plan, which includes daily command team meetings to ensure we are up to date on public health recommendations and Ministry of Health directives.
  • Screening everyone who enters the hospitals for travel history and symptoms of illness. 
  • Limiting all visitors with the exception of visits for compassionate reasons, including palliative circumstances.
  • Postponing non-urgent, elective surgeries. Affected patients are being contacted directly and will be rebooked as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Reducing, suspending or relocating some hospital services in order to create capacity for an influx in the potential acute care needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Contacting patients directly to cancel most non-urgent, scheduled outpatient procedures and clinic appointments. Appointments will be rebooked as soon as it is safe to do so. Urgent procedures and appointments will continue.
  • Enhancing infection prevention and control protocols and managing supply needs and monitoring supply levels to ensure preparedness while protecting everyone in our buildings.
  • Working collaboratively with our partners to open community assessment centres in Bracebridge and Huntsville.
  • Sharing information both internally and externally as the situation changes.
If you have a loved one being cared for in our hospitals, please rest assured they will continue to receive high-quality, safe and compassionate care by our providers who are working hard to make their experience is the best it can be during these challenging times.  
We would like to also send out words of thanks:
  • To our team members for their unwavering commitment to patient care and to keeping our facilities clean, maintained and safe.
  • To our patients and families for their patience and understanding while daily routines are interrupted and we strive to continue to deliver essential treatment and care.
  • To our Foundation teams, and their donors for continuing to believe in our hospitals and offering support and words of encouragement. Now is a great time for giving donations to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation and South Muskoka Hospital Foundation.
  • To individuals, businesses and groups that are showing their appreciation and support by reaching out to offer various ways to help. We are feeling the love and we are grateful for every heartwarming offer. We are working through a process to ensure that gifted supplies are appropriate for hospital use and the best way to receive these. Please do not bring items to the hospitals unannounced. For a variety of reasons, we cannot accept gifts of prepared food and encourage you to think of others in our community who need that support.
  • To our health care partners and municipal leaders for working together with us.
We implore everyone to continue social distancing, which is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Choose knowledge over fear. Please remember to be kind and support each other, especially our most vulnerable. 
MAHC continues to monitor new information on a daily basis  and is committed to informing the community of updates on our website at During these challenging times, we appreciate your continued support and understanding. 
Together, as a team and as a community, we can get through this. Stay safe and be well.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

More is Not Always Better – Empowering Providers and Patients to Choose Wisely

Did you know that Canadians have more than one million potentially unnecessary medical tests and treatments each year? In medicine, as it is in life, more is not always better. This is the premise of the “Choosing Wisely” campaign.
Choosing Wisely Canada is a grassroots physician-led campaign that has been championed by passionate health care providers from coast-to-coast with a goal to help clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments, and make smart choices. Tests and treatments often come with risks and harm. The goal of choosing wisely is to reduce care that is unnecessary and by doing this we ensure we are not subjecting patients to risks or harm needlessly. As well, this allows us to allocate hospital resources where they are needed and best utilized, and this too, improves patient care.
When Choosing Wisely Canada invited hospitals across Canada to join the global movement by making changes, small or large, to reduce overuse, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) was keen to get involved.
In the fall, we created our Choosing Wisely Committee with physician and staff champions across both sites who began to look at options for how we at the hospitals can do our part to choose wisely and reduce unnecessary tests and treatments.
Through the leadership of the committee, MAHC has implemented five initiatives in support of reducing unnecessary tests and/or procedures, and in January achieved the Choosing Wisely Canada hospital Level 1 designation, joining the ranks of more than a dozen other hospitals across the country.
Staff display Choosing Wisely Canada Level 1 designation certificates.

Both sites received certificates acknowledging MAHC as a Level 1 Choosing Wisely Canada hospital.

These initiatives have brought about positive changes in processes such as a targeted re-evaluation of clinical order sets to ensure they are reflecting current best practices. One of the five initiatives, for example, is to require that all physician orders for daily blood work to have an end date. This helps to avoid unnecessarily repeating blood tests that may not change clinical care, but yet can cause things like hospital-acquired anemia.
There are interesting statistics that tell us that Canadians are mindful of unnecessary health care: 62% agree that there is a significant amount of unnecessary care in the health care system while 92% of Canadians believe patients need more support to know which services are really necessary for their health.
We want patients to also play a role in self-advocating and talking to their care providers about unnecessary care. It’s about education and conversations about when a particular test, treatment or procedure, may be needed and when it may not be.
I implore everyone to consider four questions that we all can be asking our care providers to ensure we are choosing wisely for our care:
1.    Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
2.    What are the downsides?
3.    Are there simpler, safer options?
4.    What happens if I do nothing?
We will be using posters in waiting areas and other means like our website and social media channels to spread the choosing wisely word.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

How to be a good visitor during flu season

Keeping your loved ones healthy during their hospital stay is our priority, but you can also play a role if you are planning to visit the hospital.
If you’re visiting a friend or family member or if you’re coming in for an outpatient test or procedure, it’s important to follow basic infection prevention principles – especially during flu season.
CEO using hand sanitizer to clean hands
Hand sanitizing stations are located inside
the entrances at both hospitals.
The flu is a serious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. It is spread by direct contact, like touching someone, and by small droplets we expel when we breathe, talk, sneeze or cough.
First and foremost, get your flu shot from your family doctor or at a local pharmacy. The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated every year. Everyone older than six months should get a flu vaccine, and especially those who are at a higher risk of getting sick when they’re exposed to illness. Those at higher risk include people over 65 years, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma and diabetes, and those with compromised immune systems because of illnesses like HIV, hepatitis, and cancer.
Although most experts believe that influenza is most frequently spread by droplets, good hand hygiene can prevent up to 50% of influenza. This could be because these droplets can land on your hands or on surfaces that you have touched, and then often, and sometimes unconsciously, you touch your face.
Patients in the hospital are at a higher risk of exposure to illness, so to keep others safe it is always better not to visit patients in the hospital if you are feeling unwell. If you have flu-like symptoms like fever/chills, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting or diarrhea, it is especially important to stay home, avoid others and rest.
It’s also possible that you could have influenza before you feel any symptoms because the incubation period is 48 to 72 hours. That’s why good hand hygiene is really important.
Your role in helping to stop the spread of germs at the hospital starts when you first come through the door.
Use the hand sanitizing stations inside the entrances to each of our sites to clean your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be sure to put on a mask if you have a new or worsening cough and wear it at all times in the building if you must attend the hospital.  
In health care facilities like hospitals, you should clean your hands often, especially before entering and after exiting a patient room or a care area. That’s because germs can also live on surfaces and clinical studies have shown that the influenza virus can live on hard surfaces for between two and eight hours.
Practice good respiratory etiquette by coughing or sneezing into your elbow. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
When we care for patients with the flu or influenza-like symptoms, our staff wears masks, gowns, and gloves. You should always talk to the nurse before entering a patient’s room, so you too are aware of what steps to take to protect yourself and others.
Like other health care facilities, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare has policies in place to limit visitors in the event of a flu outbreak in the hospital, or even if influenza activity becomes widespread in the region.
Read the signs when you visit the hospital, check the website for updates, or call ahead for visiting restrictions.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Feedback is Your Gift to Us

CEO Natalie Bubela demonstrates the OFI tearaway
pads and deposit boxes for leaving feedback at both sites.
As the giving season draws near, I’m reminded of the gifts our communities give to us all year round that help make Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) better. Taking the time to share feedback about your experience as a patient or a visitor at either of our sites is a lasting contribution you can make to your local hospital that can positively affect everyone we serve.
We are always looking for ways to enrich the patient care experience, enhance processes and improve our facilities, which is why we provide a number of mechanisms for those we serve to provide feedback – positive or constructive.
Patient Satisfaction Surveys: for acute inpatient and emergency care help us identify where we are doing well and highlight where there are opportunities for quality improvement. Patients are selected at random by the National Research Corporation and we encourage you to complete this voluntary, confidential survey if you receive one in the mail. While these traditional satisfaction surveys capture the patient perspective across Ontario, we recognize that family can offer an important perspective on their loved one’s experience as well. This fall, MAHC joined the provincial roll-out of the Electronic Family Satisfaction Survey in the Intensive Care Units, which is geared to capture the family’s satisfaction with ICU care.
Comment Cards: have been introduced in some of our support services as a means of gathering in-the-moment feedback about inpatient meal service, and room cleanliness.
OFI Boxes: throughout both sites are “opportunities for improvement” (OFI) tearaway pads where you can note your comments and leave them for us in the deposit boxes.
Website: at compliments and concerns are easy to share with us. We also welcome feedback in writing by mail, or verbally by phone by contacting a member of Administration.
Above all else, we encourage you to be active participants in your health care. If you have a concern about your care or the care of a loved one, engage those involved around you at the point of care. Speak to one of the doctors, nurses or other care team members directly about any concerns you have. Good communication with your care providers is essential and helps to ensure the highest quality of care. If your concerns cannot be resolved with your care team, you can ask to speak to the manager or shift leader and have them help you find a resolution. You also have the option of contacting our Patient Ombudsman, either over the phone or in writing.
At MAHC, all feedback is greatly appreciated, and we take every compliment and complaint seriously. Letting us know how we are doing is the best way that you can help make MAHC better!

This fall, both ICUs joined the provincial roll-out of the Electronic Family Satisfaction Survey
where family members use iPads in the ICU to share feedback about their experience.

Monday, 9 September 2019

The Value of Volunteers – Priceless!

There is a contingent of workers at our hospitals who put in countless hours and don’t take home a cent for their time. You can find them supporting patient care in nearly every area of our hospitals, easily recognized by their green smocks and big smiles. They are also very active in our communities working to raise funds for much-needed equipment that the government does not fund, and offer educational scholarship programs to both local students and hospital staff.

Have you ever thought about becoming a hospital volunteer? Volunteering is about giving back. It means working with others to make a meaningful contribution to a better community. At Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, we are so fortunate to have the Auxiliary to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital and the Huntsville Hospital Auxiliary as part our hospital team. These people work tirelessly to give their time to assist patients, staff and visitors. They operate our gift shops, they porter patients around the buildings, they help with wayfinding, and they promote awareness in the community.

As a hospital administrator, every time I hear about the work our volunteers are doing and the dollars they are fundraising, I am humbled by their generosity, commitment and contagious enthusiasm. Each of our volunteers has a story to tell, each of them comes from a different background with different life experiences, but yet they all have one thing in common – and that is their willingness to give of their time in support of our hospitals. Together, last year our two Auxiliaries invested nearly 44,000 hours! It is with thanks for this vital support that we are able to make your patient experience the best it can be and be able to make continued investments in the hospitals that improve patient care.

The value of volunteering is something money can never measure and the contributions made by our Auxiliary members to safe, high-quality care are simply priceless. On behalf of all the people that come through our doors, I sincerely thank each and every hospital auxiliary volunteer for their dedication and hard work to support local hospital care.

I hope you too will be inspired to support your hospitals by becoming a volunteer. Our Auxiliaries are always looking for new members and you can find out more about how you can our website at:

Friday, 26 July 2019

Ontario Health Teams: a collaborative partnership model for health care

Muskoka and area will be at the forefront of Ontario’s health system transformation as a group of local health care providers, including MAHC, has been selected among the first wave of applicants seeking to establish an Ontario Health Team (OHT).

Ontario Health Teams are being introduced by the provincial government to provide a new way of organizing and delivering health care services in local communities. The concept is that under Ontario Health Teams, the health care providers you see (including hospitals, doctors and home care providers) will work as one coordinated team – no matter where they provide your care. It is part of the provincial government’s plan to improve health care in Ontario by building a more connected system that improves the patient and caregiver experience and strengthens local services.

I am excited about the recent announcement that Muskoka and area has been invited to submit a full application for an Ontario Health Team. Patients throughout our region will benefit from health care that is integrated and coordinated locally, centered around primary care, and positioned to improve social determinants of population health.

Muskoka and area is one of just 31 groups selected by the provincial government to move forward to the next stage of application, and this is all thanks to the hard work of the Muskoka and Area OHT partners. We at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare are proud to be a partner in this work, joining a full spectrum of health and community organizations, including the Cottage Country Family Health Team, Algonquin Family Health Team, Midwives of Muskoka, North Muskoka Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, Closing the Gap Health Care, North Simcoe Muskoka Home and Community Care, North East Home and Community Care, CarePartners Muskoka, District of Muskoka, Alzheimer’s Society of Muskoka, and

In our collective completed application, which is due this fall, we will demonstrate how our OHT will enhance coordination of care and improve transitions of care, and effectively engage primary care providers and leaders, as well as Indigenous partners by further illustrating solid relationships across the continuum of care. We must also establish effective governance with providers and community-based representation, including patients and families. If you are interested in becoming part of this local governance model, I encourage you to send your expression of interest to Janine van den Heuvel, Executive Director of the Algonquin Family Health Team at

This is very exciting news for Muskoka and area that builds on the great work of the Muskoka and Area Health System Transformation group to revolutionize local health care to make it easier for patients to navigate the system and to centre care around people. I hope that with continued hard work and the support of all our partners, later this fall Muskoka and area can be among those named by the province as the first Ontario Heath Teams.

If you would like to learn more about how Ontario is connecting care through Ontario Health Teams, please visit

Monday, 27 May 2019

Quality improvement goals set for 2019/2020

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare’s commitment to patient safety and quality improvement is continuous and collaborative. We are excited to continue the momentum we have recently gained from our Accreditation Canada exemplary standing award and keep safety and quality at the core of all we do.

The Excellent Care for All Act requires hospitals to develop and communicate an annual Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) that sets safety and quality targets for the organization to achieve. QIPs are centered around the five key dimensions of quality: access, effectiveness, integrated, patient centered, and safety. This year’s QIP continues our ongoing quality improvement journey to ensure that our patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time by the right provider.

am pleased to share our 2019/2020 QIP which is posted on the MAHC website and focuses our work on four objectives:
  1. Improving access by monitoring time from decision to admit in the Emergency Department to arrival on inpatient unit
  2. Improving value through patient satisfaction responses to the question: “Did you receive enough information from hospital staff about what to do if you were worried about your condition or treatment after you left hospital?”
  3. Improving safety by identifying, monitoring and implementing improvement strategies for the number of workplace violence incidents reported by staff
  4. Improving safety through medication reconciliation upon discharge
As well, each of the care teams has identified additional quality improvement initiatives at the departmental level and these indicators will be monitored monthly.

What makes me most proud is that our ongoing quality improvement journey has been informed by our patients and their families, our staff, physicians, and community health care partners. We worked collaboratively with community partners to ensure our culture supports and encourages high-quality care in each and every interaction with patients and their families.

We believe that together we can build healthy communities that are aligned with regional and provincial priorities. We are committed to a culture of quality and safety and we continue to explore new ways to provide care so we are meeting our patients' expectations and improving their hospital experience.