Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation could play larger role under new provincial health authority structure

Clay Thompson, Executive Director of the Healthcare Foundation, shared the highlights of the past year during the Foundation's recent annual general meeting.

A continued mandate of improving healthcare across the Southwest despite the changing healthcare landscape was a featured message during the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation’s annual meeting.

Clay Thompson, Executive Director of the Healthcare Foundation, noted that he expects that the mandate of the Foundation will remain exactly the same, or even increase in importance, as the province completes their transition to a single Provincial Health Authority.

“That is what we did yesterday, and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing tomorrow,” Thompson said during the Healthcare Foundation’s annual meeting on April 20. “It should make no significant difference to us and what we do. Our job was, and will always be, to gather funds to improve the quality and availability of healthcare in Southwest Saskatchewan.”

While there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the province’s efforts to consolidate the 12 existing Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) to a single Provincial Health Authority, the efforts of healthcare foundations will remain the same. In the Provincial Health Authority Act, the province retained the ability of a regional healthcare foundation to use its funds as they consider appropriate in any facility within their former region.

Thompson said it is his opinion that foundation assistance will grow, as provincial funding for capital equipment is not likely to go up.

“It is not unreasonable to assume that Foundations like ours may be called upon to support capital equipment needs, at least to the level that we were doing it yesterday and years in the past. So I think, honestly, our role in the community becomes even more relevant.”

The Healthcare Foundation is coming off a successful year where they distributed $2.6 million across the region. The majority of that funding was directed to pay their $2 million commitment in support of The Meadows. The second largest expenditure was just over $500,000 to the Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility in Maple Creek to pay for new equipment in that building.

Thompson noted the fundraising campaign for The Meadows was the largest fundraiser in his eighth year tenure at the Foundation. The largest campaign ran by the Foundation was THE (Towards Healthcare Excellence) Campaign, while the fundraising efforts for The Meadows was their second largest campaign.

However, after wrapping a major campaign, and having a number of supporters completing multiple-year commitments to meet their pledge totals, the start of the current year has started slowly.

“I won’t deny the year has been somewhat slow so far, and part of that is what they call ‘donor fatigue’. We just came off a huge campaign for The Meadows, and a very successful campaign, a campaign that the community supported in a major way.”

“We have to try and cast a bigger net. I think there’s enough caring people in the Southwest that we can, instead of going back to the same well year after year after year, we can find some new wells and if we do that we’ll be fine.”

He said it is not unattainable to reach out to half of the 25,000 to 30,000 residents across the Southwest to make a modest donation of $50 to support healthcare. Thompson notes that having half of the residents of the Southwest just donating $50 a year would make a huge financial impact of between $1.25 million and $1.5 million each year for healthcare.

This past year, they reached their annual average of issuing approximately 2,500 taxation receipts for the past year.

“It just means that there are an awful lot of people who we haven’t engaged yet, and we have to determine how to do that. And that’s what we’ll be concentrating our efforts on for the next little while is what can we do to compel people to participate and help keep healthcare strong.”