Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation hopes the community holds support for its hospital close to its heart in the weeks before Christmas.
The foundation has launched a $1.8-million campaign to give Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Oceanside Health Centre in Parksville a big boost to patient cardiac care with new cardiac diagnostic equipment, an expansion of the cardiology department at NRGH and renovations to Parksville’s cardiology unit.
The foundation’s short-term fundraising goal is $750,000, through the third annual Light the Trees campaign, which lights Christmas trees at NRGH by reaching donation milestones. Light the Trees starts at the beginning of December, but regular donors, that include businesses, service clubs and individuals, have contributed since mid October.
“By Christmas we knew [$1.8 million] was too much to raise, so we set a goal of $750,000 and we are at just over $255,000 as of [this week], so we’re absolutely thrilled,” said Janice Perrino, foundation chief executive officer.
Last year’s campaign raised about $600,000.
“If we get a big chunk of it done at Christmas, we know we can get the rest of it done in the coming months,” Perrino said.
The money will help pay for seven cardiac ultrasound units, three treadmills, an upgraded Holter cardiac monitoring system and a new electrocardiography unit, plus the NRGH cardiology department expansion and renovations at OHC.
NRGH’s cardiology department serves patients north of the Malahat. Demand for its services has grown 25 per cent annually since 2014. About 44,000 cardiac examinations will be performed there this year. Cardiologists and staff have been hired to meet demand – NRGH now has three cardiologists and a fourth is arriving in 2019 – but the department has outgrown its working space and its diagnostic equipment, now about 11 years old, is dated and wearing out.
Facilities upgrades at NRGH, starting in 2019, will allow 95 per cent of pre- and post-surgical and procedural cardiac care to be done in Nanaimo and drastically lower the need for patients to travel to Victoria.
Dr. Bilal Ayach, cardiologist, said the strength of patient care lies with NRGH’s medical staff, but they need the most up-to-date tools to give the highest level of care.
“They do everything possible for their patients, so they get first class care here,” Ayach said. “We’re just trying to make sure they get better diagnostic care, better pre- and post [surgery] care. It’s already very good. I’ve trained at many places and the care here, you’ll get the same as anywhere else in the world. We just want to make sure we get 21st-century diagnostic equipment.”
Dr. Arun Nataranjan, cardiologist, said state-of-the-art equipment and more working space will help NRGH meet its operational goals, which include hiring more staff to help cut patient wait times for services.
“The quality of the scans needs to be on par with the rest of the bigger centres – Victoria, Vancouver and other centres – so that’s what we’re aiming for,” Nataranjan said. “So getting our new machines is a step in that direction … We’re not just getting new machines, we’re also getting more machines and VIHA is also supporting us in that respect by helping us fund new sonographers. We’ve trained people who we’ve managed to retain, so we’re very fortunate that way. So all these things – more equipment, more sonographers – is going to mean more scans, which essentially mean shorter waiting times.“
Nataranjan said the wait list when he came to Nanaimo was about two years for some services, but has been halved to about a year.
“But that’s still quite high, so we want to get the waiting list to about a few months or maybe a month, if possible, so that’s the aim,” he said.
Creating a more effective working space and working conditions also means the hospital can attract and hold young graduates entering careers in medical fields.
“I can see a lot of scope for improvement in our echo department here and the cardiac services as a whole, so once again, I’m very happy that the foundation is helping us out in a big way,” he said.
To learn more about the cardiac project and the Light the Trees campaign or to make a donation, visit www.nanaimohospitalfoundation.com.