Monday, 27 April 2020

MAHC Board’s Message to Our Communities

Phil Matthews
This blog prepared by Phil Matthews, Chair of the MAHC Board of Directors

As Chair of Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare’s Board of Directors, I am so impressed and humbled by the efforts of our health care teams in combatting COVID-19. During this crisis, the Board has been kept up to date on the pandemic preparations and status at the hospitals and has moved to virtual meetings like so many of you. Even while physically distant from the hospitals, we are well aware of the exceptional efforts being made by all members of the MAHC team. 

Although we have never experienced anything quite like COVID-19, MAHC has successfully adapted to the changing  circumstances every day. From the Pandemic Incident Command Team planning the details to the staff and physicians skillfully executing them, we have the utmost confidence in the hospitals’ pandemic preparedness. 

By every account our teams across our two sites along with our community partners have pulled together remarkably in the face of very challenging times. Examples are varied and many but include activities such as preparing spaces in the hospitals designated for COVID care that we hope will never be filled with patients, frequent simulations and scenario planning to ensure all details are accounted for, and collaboratively setting up and operating the Assessment Centres. To date, we have been fortunate to have seen very few cases in our hospitals. But if MAHC were to see a sudden surge of COVID-19 patients requiring hospital care, I know they are very well prepared. On behalf of all the Directors, I want to again say a most sincere thank you to all of the staff and physicians and commend you for your compassionate care and your courage during COVID. 

While the Board has the utmost confidence in our MAHC team, as a community we can still help them help us. First and foremost, please heed the government’s insistence about the importance of continued physical distancing. Please take care of yourselves – both emotionally and physically. If you have symptoms, please seek testing through either of the Muskoka Assessment Centres (more information can be found at Please remember to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Preparations for COVID-19 come with a cost to securing the necessary supplies and equipment to increase our capacity to care for critically ill patients. We are forever grateful for all of our communities’ support for our two hospital foundations and, especially in such trying times, we hope you are able in some way to continue with that absolutely critical support.

Thank you for doing your part, for standing by our side, for helping your hospital through various much appreciated donations, and helping your fellow community members.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Another Message to Our Communities About COVID-19

Since my first COVID-19 blog on March 25, I’m pleased to share another update with our communities from Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare. In the past week and a half, our emergency planning has continued to evolve to a greater level of preparedness for an influx of patients from COVID-19. We are taking the advice of public health very seriously that community spread is occurring, and we remind everyone of the importance of staying home and physical distancing from others. It is the only way to protect ourselves and each other, and limit the potential of overwhelming the hospitals during the pandemic. Our teams across both sites stay at work for you and we remind you how critical it is to stay at home for them, with the exception of essential trips for groceries, takeout food, or medications – and only if you are feeling well. Be sure to keep washing your hands! 
Like every Ontario hospital, MAHC will struggle with the patient surge that is anticipated still to come due to COVID-19. As a smaller community hospital we have limited personnel and limited space. Health care practitioners fill many roles in our communities and we are monitoring the wellness of the hospital workforce and recognize the potential for burning out these hardworking providers in every facet of health careOur teams are doing everything they can to provide excellent care for patients with medical needs unrelated to COVID-19, while responding with a dynamic pandemic plan. If COVID-19 becomes very prevalent in Muskoka, we have to remember how being able and healthy to go to work can impact many essential service workers. Please, please, stay at home.
There is no question the population in Muskoka has grown in the last few weeks. MAHC will always serve whoever comes through our doors to the best of our ability whether they live here 12 months of the year, operate a business, cottage here or are visiting our region. We all like to call Muskoka home, and we are all in this together. More than ever we must be kind, stop drawing lines, and support and respect each other. Our hospital foundations are blessed by the generosity of numerous donors, seasonal residents too, who make hospital care better for everyone.
With the concern and potential impact of community spread, MAHC has done a lot of work to put in place additional measures at Muskoka’s two hospitals including:
  • We have ensured robust infection control isolation precautions are practiced diligently everywhere at all times. Regardless of where potential or confirmed COVID-19 patients are, various practices are in place to protect against cross-contamination of any infection.
  • We are following guidelines for mask use and other personal protective equipment (PPE) and implementing directives that reduce the risk of potential transmission from anyone who could be carrying the virus but do not show symptoms.
  • We continue to monitor and react to a provincially-challenged supply chain of personal protective equipment. We’ve launched a community donations process through the leadership of our Huntsville Hospital and South Muskoka Hospital Foundations. We are so grateful to everyone for their overwhelming support of gifted masks, gowns and gloves, and hand sanitizer, as well as financial support through donations. Information about this streamlined process and what we are in need of most is on our website for anyone who can help.
  • We have worked collaboratively with our health care partners to open two assessment centres – one in Bracebridge and one in Huntsville. These centres are by appointment only Monday to Friday. Learn more about the process for getting an appointment at a centre if you think you have COVID-19.
  • We continue to work closely with our partners, and Home and Community Care to move patients to appropriate environments, which also been effective to reduce the number of admitted patients in each of our sites.
  • By moving quickly on difficult decisions to cancel elective surgeries, we have also been able to free up hospital beds should the wave come. In the days ahead, our Operating Rooms will be used for emergency surgeries only as we continue to align with updated provincial direction to ramp down services even more.
  • We have finalized our pandemic plan for a surge in critical care needs. This type of planning guides both mitigation and response and follows a phased approach that looks to maximize capacity at both campuses and identify and prepare appropriate spaces to manage COVID patients effectively according to infection control guidelines.
  • Teams are looking at innovative ways to change flows in the Emergency Dept. to create separate streams to serve COVID and non-COVID patient needs to protect the safety of all.
  • Our clinicians are modelling optimal care for COVID patients through simulations across both sites.
  • And providers are exploring virtual care options both in hospital and in community primary care so those who are ill have alternative means to get the care they need without leaving their homes.
Provincial and Ministry directives are changing rapidly as new information and statistics become available and are reviewed daily and by our Pandemic Command Team. Our staff and physicians remain committed to COVID containment and compassionate care. I am grateful every day for their courage and their hard work during these very difficult and often stressful times. On their behalf, I would also like to share some thanks to everyone who keeps us in their thoughts and prayers. 
MAHC has been very fortunate to be on the receiving end of donated masks, gowns and gloves, and hand sanitizer as well as financial support through donations, tokens of appreciation that have been dropped off, cards of thanks and well wishes on our social media posts, last week’s sirens of support from our fellow first responders, and grab-and-go prepared food for our teams from businesses that have worked with our Foundations. Countless community partners and friends have offered supplies, accommodations, other assistance and support, while donors continue to support and believe in our hospitals. This is the true meaning of community, and together, we will get through this. 
Please rest assured your Muskoka hospitals are committed to acting in the best interests of preparedness for our greater communities. We know this will be a long haul that will persist for weeks to months, but we also know someday this will be over. Take care of yourselves and your families. Be diligent with physical distancing. Stay healthy and stay safe!