Hi, I'm Natalie Bubela, President & CEO at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare. I'm pleased to blog regularly about health and wellness, and items of interest around your Muskoka hospitals. From time to time, others take the pen and share interesting news. Thanks for reading!
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
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
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 www.mahc.ca/COVID-19/). 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.
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
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 care. Our teams are doing everything they
can toprovide 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
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
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
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
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!