Things are changing in the Comox Valley: our population is growing as more people move here in appreciation of the Valley’s natural qualities and lifestyle. And our population is aging: the proportion of seniors here is higher than the provincial, or even the Island, average.
In general, Canadians are living longer due largely to the marvels of medical science. But this longevity and quality of life come at a cost. Everything associated with them—equipment, training, and facilities—is complex and expensive.
Fortunately, the Valley has a registered charity that supports local initiatives in acute care, community healthcare, and long-term care: the Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation (CVHF). Executive director Jessica Aldred explains, “Our work supports people at every stage of life.”
Healthcare is funded primarily by the government with funds from the community supplementing what is required at the local level. This model, used in all hospitals in British Columbia, gives communities both the steady hand of government and the opportunity to influence the care they access. It might mean getting medical equipment quicker, bolstering patient care through various provisions, or supporting special medical training.
The Foundation, which began when the North Island Hospital opened in 2017, carries on the work of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation, with a mandate to “raise funds to enhance quality healthcare in our community for people of all ages.”
Needs are identified by local front-line workers like doctors, nurses, and caregivers. Ideas might include new technology or machinery, staff education, patient comfort items, or support for community healthcare initiatives.
Then, in consultation with local healthcare leaders, the Foundation’s volunteer board of directors selects the projects to pursue—often there are at least a dozen on the go. “The goal is to be as flexible and responsive as possible,” says Aldred. This leads to a wide variety of initiatives being funded.
Recently, collective donations from the community were pooled to support the purchase of a Lucas Chest Compression System. This portable mechanical chest compression device delivers good-quality chest compressions, allowing emergency room staff to focus on other aspects of patient care. The Lucas has proven to be especially useful during COVID-19, when safety protocols limit the number of doctors and nurses allowed in trauma rooms.
Another recent acquisition is the gel therapy mittens that a compassionate donor provided to the Cancer Care Department. This important comfort item cools patients’ hands, so they don’t lose fingernails when getting chemotherapy.
Patti Fletcher, an ongoing CVHF supporter who previously served as a volunteer director on the Foundation board, appreciates that “the Foundation’s work is community specific,” and geared toward the unique needs of our area.
Fletcher took part in many projects as a board member. Some of these initiatives supported staff training, while others allowed the acquisition of patient comfort items or critical care equipment. A project close to her heart was the purchase of a Duet Wheelchair Bicycle for The Views. This innovative tandem bicycle allows long-term care residents to get outdoors and feel the breeze in their hair while a staff member pedals.
“Gratitude” is one of the most powerful words Aldred uses during our conversation: the gratitude that patients express toward their healthcare team—and the gratitude that local healthcare providers and the Foundation feel toward the community that continues to step up to help.
“It’s a privilege to do this work,” Aldred says, adding, “We take the utmost care with the funds entrusted to us and strive to maximize their impact on the community.”