Urban Strategies assisted Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) through Stage 1.3 of the Ministry of Health’s capital planning process, which involved the identification and evaluation of suitable properties for a new facility to replace the existing South Muskoka Memorial Hospital, located in Bracebridge, Ontario. The new hospital will continue to serve residents of Bracebridge and the broader Muskoka and East Parry Sound area. The Ministry’s capital planning process requires that the location of the future hospital be informed and supported by local municipalities, stakeholders, and the general public. Urban Strategies designed and implemented a robust program of stakeholder and community engagement, with the purpose of explaining the site selection process, getting input on the range of considerations against which potential hospital sites would be evaluated, and soliciting feedback on the potential sites being considered. Urban Strategies hosted one-on-one interviews and focus groups with hospital foundations, emergency service providers, patient & family advocacy groups, community associations, District and Town staff, the Muskoka Area Indigenous Leaders Table, and other groups and institutions, whose input informed the methodology and analysis. The community at large was engaged through two series of community open houses across Muskoka District, supplemented by virtual community open houses to reach as many people as possible.
Urban Strategies worked with staff at the Town of Bracebridge and Muskoka District to identify potential hospital locations. Supported by Stantec Inc, Urban Strategies developed site selection criteria to evaluate the properties against a broad range of factors, including characteristics of the potential locations and the surrounding context and their suitability for a large-scale health facility, alignment with provincial, district, and municipal planning policy, and the relative challenges and costs associated with building and servicing a hospital at each location. The evaluation criteria were developed, refined and weighted based on Ministry requirements, best practices in site selection, and input and feedback from stakeholder groups, the community at large, and MAHC’s Capital Development Operations Committee and Site Selection Work Group.