Substantial donations and increased revenue from hosting more in-person events helped the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation to have a very successful year in 2021.
The activities of the Healthcare Foundation during the past year were highlighted during the organization’s annual general meeting, April 26.
Board Chair Helen Arnold expressed gratitude on behalf of the board towards all donors in southwest Saskatchewan during the presentation of her report.
“2021 was a record-breaking success for the Foundation and we have all of you to thank for that,” she said.
She also expressed appreciation towards the Healthcare Foundation staff for their tireless efforts during the past year.
“Looking back at 2021, the Foundation has made tremendous strides in coming through the two very long pandemic years,” she said. “Jim Dekowny, our executive director, and his staff, Kris Johnson, Sara Adrian and Marcus Kouri have been very creative with fundraising efforts while adhering to government regulations during this pandemic.”
Dekowny also thanked donors and supporters from across the region during the presentation of his report. He noted that support for the work of the Healthcare Foundation continued through a year of fluctuating COVID-19 regulations and modified fundraising events.
The Healthcare Foundation was able to host its five major fundraising events during 2021, despite the pandemic situation. The Urban Cellars NHL Playoff Draft, Charity Golf Classic, newly named Bob Pollock Memorial Lobster Pot golf tournament, Living Sky Casino Ribfest, and Pharmasave Radiothon raised funds for various projects to purchase healthcare equipment.
“Most notably through the Pharmasave Radiothon for Healthcare we raised $158,150 for the purchase of a new telemetry monitoring system for the Cypress Regional Hospital,” he said. “Thanks to the generosity of those living and working in the southwest we had the most successful Radiothon to date.”
Another highlight from the past year was the reopening of Rotary House in September 2021. The five-bedroom hostel had to close in March 2020 due to the pandemic. It provides barrier-free healthcare related accommodation at $50 per night.
“Rotary House is an affordable, comfortable and accessible option for those seeking accommodation while attending medical appointments or visiting a loved one in the Cypress Regional Hospital, Cypress House or The Meadows long-term care facility,” he said. “It is great to offer this service and take another step towards putting the pandemic behind us once again.”
The Healthcare Foundation’s total revenue for 2021 was $2.1 million. The two main sources of income were just over $1 million in donations and $698,877 from events. The remaining income was from investments. Total expenses for the year were $743,832. The Foundation therefore had $1.4 million excess of revenue over expenses.
Income from donations and events were both significantly higher in 2021 compared to 2020. Dekowny said during a media interview after the meeting that the Healthcare Foundation received two significant donations. The return to in-person events also played a role in funds raised from events.
The Healthcare Foundation typically spends between $300,000 and $500,000 each year in support of healthcare in southwest Saskatchewan. This was also the case in 2021.
Last year was the initial year of the Foundation’s new five-year strategic plan. The goal during 2021 was to increase the organization’s profile through an increased presence on different social media platforms. For 2022 the focus will be on improving internal and external communications, and the key will be to strengthen connections with different rural communities in southwest Saskatchewan. There is still a need to inform people about the work of the Foundation and that funds raised benefit healthcare in the entire region and not only in Swift Current.
“So we need to get out to those areas and make sure we’re visible at RM meetings, at council meetings, and just talk about what we do and help wherever we can,” he said. “I think that’s a really big important area that we’re going to focus on for the next little bit here. It’s huge.”
The guest speaker during the annual general meeting was Dr. Kevin Wasko, who has been the physician executive for integrated rural health at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) for the past four years. He will be leaving the organization at the end of June and will be moving to Ontario to work for Trillium Health Partners as an emergency physician in the Mississauga Hospital.
Both Arnold and Dekowny expressed gratitude towards Dr. Wasko for being a great advocate for the Healthcare Foundation.
“We will truly miss his passionate commitment to patient-centred care, keen intellect and strategic leadership,” Arnold said.
Dr. Wasko thanked the Healthcare Foundation for its work and ability to be innovative during the pandemic, which allowed it to find new and innovative ways to raise funds. He provided an update on the activities of the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He noted there has been a shift to move towards system recovery in the healthcare system.
“We have moved the response to COVID to our everyday work across the province so that it’s something that isn’t going away, but it’s something that we’re going to have to learn to manage through our normal processes and our regular services,” he said. “There will be times when there’s greater strain on the system than others, but I think we’ve learned a lot in two years.”
His upcoming departure is not the only change in the Integrated Rural Health Department. Karen Earnshaw has retired from the position of vice president for Integrated Rural Health. Brenda Schwan, who was a member of the senior management team in the former Cypress Health Region, has been named the interim vice president.
“We are replacing all of our executive positions as internal, because the CEO is internal and it’s felt that when the board selects a new CEO this summer, that CEO should have the opportunity to choose their team,” Dr. Wasko explained.
He spoke about the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s recently released roadmap for 2022-23. The three key goals of this delivery plan are investing in human resources, advancing the connected care strategy to provide seamless healthcare to people as close as possible to their homes, and enhancing patient care through improved flow of information and renewal of facility infrastructure.
He noted there has been a real move of frontline healthcare providers from full-time positions to casual positions.
“And so that means we have patchy coverage at times, because that move to casual gives the healthcare provider the opportunity that they can choose when it is they might want to work or not,” he said. “So we need to have strategies around how we can make healthcare attractive that people want to sign up for full-time jobs and work within.”
The focus on connected care means there will be an effort to create integrated models that will allow patients to seamlessly move through the healthcare system without feeling lost. There will also be a focus on creating a more interdisciplinary and holistic approach to care for patients. As part of this process there will be efforts to stabilize rural and remote healthcare services.
“A colleague of mine has likened it to fighting three on five hockey for rural Saskatchewan,” he said. “You’re just always at a disadvantage. How do we try to close that gap and bring it into the realm where people in rural Saskatchewan are getting the highest quality care because they deserve it. And there’s a lot to do on that front, but it has been prioritized in trying to get new and innovative models of care, leveraging technology, and virtual care.”