NHH Launches Exceptional Campaign – The Biggest One Ever in Northumberland

In Editor Choice, Local

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
If you’ve been seeing those signs around West Northumberland saying it’s almost time for some big news, the wait is over.

Northumberland Hills Hospital Foundation Chief Executive Officer Rhonda Cunningham made the announcement Wednesday at a gathering of community supporters at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre – the launch of the Exceptional Community, Exceptional Care capital campaign that will equip NHH for the future needs of a growing community with a goal of $25-million.

Though launched May 3, the campaign is already three years old.

Cunningham’s announcement called it “the largest campaign in our hospital’s history, and the largest to date in the County of Northumberland.”

Just to add some perspective to that – back at the turn of the century, Bob MacCoubrey and Bill Patchett spearheaded the Caring For Generations campaign to build the new hospital with a then-unheard-of goal of $12-million (by the time it was built in 2003, Cunningham said, they had reached the $15-million mark).

And to add further perspective, the public launch of the campaign finds it already at the $18-million mark – 72% of the way there, Cunningham said.

She displayed a chart that shows that they have already received 62 $100 gifts, 20 $10,000 donations, 10 in the amount of $25,000, 11 in the amount of $50,000, 14 in the amount of $100,000, seven in the amount of $250,000, four in the amount of $500,000 and five gifts of $1-million or more.

President and Chief Executive Officer Susan Walsh said the campaign really took shape after they completed their most recent strategic plan to look at how the community the hospital serves is changing and growing, as well as what was needed in order for NHH to offer state-of-the-art care every time, close to home.

She listed the key priorities that emerged.

A new computerized tomography (CT) scanner is needed to replace the 14-year-old one that has completed more than 206,523 examinations. The latest technology will offer improved image quality with high resolution to produce more accurate diagnoses through a process that involves less radiation exposure.

A new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner is needed to replace the 16-year-old one that has performed more than 115,000 exams. The new scanner will offer a larger bore for improved patient comfort, with faster scans to make the procedure take less time for the patient.

A new six-bed integrated stroke unit available closer to home means the time between the stroke and the initiation of the rehabilitation phase will be significantly reduced for better outcomes.

An increased capacity in the intensive care unit (ICU) to 10 beds from six will require a remodelling project to find room to keep all 10 in a single unit, improving staff capacity in terms of offering an expanded scope of care and a high level of service. It also means more families won’t have to travel great distances at a particularly stressful time to be with loved ones who previously might not have been accommodated at NHH.

Staff and equipment for an additional operating room will increase local and regional surgical capacity, decrease surgical wait times, and help attract and retain the most talented team possible – as well as offering an opportunity to bring new surgical services closer to home.

Renovating the Medical Device Repurposing Department (MDRD) supports this expansion. This work involves the decontamination, inspection, packaging, sterilization and transporting of reusable medical devices. This will improve work flow and productivity for enhanced staff and patient safety.

Finally, a pharmacy redevelopment is planned, with streamlined workloads, decreased administration times, cost savings and increased efficiency to retain the hospital’s ability to meet current needs and ensure future ones can be met.

Walsh said she approached the foundation to ask if they would undertake this capital campaign.

“The foundation mobilized,” Cunningham recalled.

“We developed and approved a plan, we created policies to guide us in our efforts, we agreed on the campaign goal – and the Exceptional Community, Exceptional Care campaign was created.”
Hank Vandermeer was recruited as campaign chair, and a time frame of five years was envisioned.

“Our goal is, after today, everyone in Northumberland County will have a deeper understanding of where we must go, what we have set out to accomplish, and what it’s going to take for us to get there,” Cunningham said.

By way of thanks, she spotlighted some extraordinary achievements already accomplished – like their appeal to NHH board members that resulted in an incredible $2-million from a relatively small group of people.

And the NHH Auxiliary has come up with a “legendary” $1-million gift, mostly raised through these dedicated volunteers’ diligent efforts in their Petticoat Lane thrift shop and the Little Treasure Shop gift shop near the hospital entrance (their 100th anniversary later this year will truly be cause to celebrate, she noted).

A heroic local couple, Karol Shaw and Susan Leonard, called her back in March 2020, two days after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, to offer $1-million for any pandemic-related need that might arise. The provincial government pretty well covered these contingencies, so Cunningham contacted the couple. Not only did they agree to repurpose this gift for the new campaign, she said, but they increased it to $1.1-million.

A representative of the Radlett Foundation contacted Vandermeer offering “a million” to support “something for the OR.” The result was a $1,038,000 boost for the new operating room when construction begins later this year.

“Gifts like this are truly transformative,” Cunningham said, adding that, for those interested, there are naming opportunities to acknowledge exceptional support.

The Behan family’s support, for example, is now memorialized in the Behan Family Pre-op Lounge, much as the Margaret and Stuart Henderson Ambulatory Waiting Room is a tribute to its namesakes.

Philanthropist Lynn Hardy is honoured – not only for her financial gifts but for the time she has dedicated to a number of NHH committees – with the Lynn Hardy MRI Patient Prep Area.

When the hospital was built, the board chair was Don Morrison – and many still remember his update on its progress at every board meeting using the same good-news phrase “on time and on budget.” The sunny entrance of the hospital was recently named the Don and Fran Morrison Atrium.

The SABIC company is acknowledged with the SABIC Cancer Main Reception, and the BMO Financial Group has given its support to the new Learning Lab, with up-to-date equipment to help new health-care professionals sharpen their knowledge and skills in situations that more accurately simulate real-life situations.

Cunningham related a poignant story behind the Rose and Bob Avery Integrated Stroke Unit.

“Bob was a patient for months and months and, during his stay, his wife Rose was a daily visitor. I remember her breezing in the main entrance, calling the volunteers by name, and they called back. She was one of us – that’s how much time she spent with us.”

Bob passed in 2018 and was followed by Rose two years later. But the following year, the foundation was contacted by Ray Gupta, who had employed both of them at the Port Hope Comfort Inn and wanted to ensure they would be remembered.

“Every gift of every size is important to us, and it’s valued, and we are grateful – please know this,” Cunningham said.

“I think it boils down to people wanting to help people. We give because we care, and that’s important – because the result of this campaign will touch and even save lives.”

As for gifts already received, she added, they are already being put to work addressing these key priorities.

The event included a video in which Chief of Staff Dr. Mukesh Bhargava noted another benefit from the campaign.

“Having the hospital be well equipped attracts talent, and talent facilitates better care,” Dr. Bhargava summed up.

Dr. Andrew Stratford, Chief of Surgical Services, grew up in Grafton and returned to the community when he joined the NHH staff in 2005. In those days, it was not uncommon for local residents to have to seek certain services outside their home community. Since then, available services have expanded to include such procedures as plastic surgery, ophthalmology services, ear, nose and throat surgery – “all of a sudden, we are offering things we weren’t offering before,” Dr. Stratford said.

“It’s easier for the family, it’s easier for everyone.

“When we add another OR and add that capacity, we are actually able to accommodate and attract more specialists and more people to keep our wait lists down.”

Dr. Stratford said he occasionally hears from specialists like orthopedists who might be interested in practicing at NHH – and added that colleagues at Kingston’s hospital get envious when they hear where he works.

“Everything we do is coloured by the support we get from the community, and the Foundation. It’s something we really, really feel strongly about. We don’t have a lot of peers in regard to the community and the support we have. It’s where I want to live, it’s where I want to be, it’s where I feel like we are supported,” he said.

“It’s important to tell you as a group that the money and the gifts that are given aren’t taken lightly,” he added.

“They don’t waste this money. This is a gift. Anything that is given, anything that our donors do will be stewarded by us. It’s a precious gift, and we care for that.”

Echoing a line from the video, Cunningham said they hadn’t come that far just to come that far.

“We are nowhere near done – there’s $7-million to be raised, and an opportunity for everyone to shape there hospital,” she pointed out.

“Please stay with us on this journey.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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