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Health care foundations get together

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Joint fund-raising explored

Health care foundations in the Sea to Sky Corridor have taken the first step towards more co-ordinated health services with a commitment to work together on future projects and fund-raising.

Approximately 16 representatives from the Squamish Health Care Foundation Society, the Whistler Health Care Foundation (WHCF) and the Pemberton & District Health Care Foundation met for the first time as a group last weekend. The Sea to Sky Community Health Council (CHC) which is responsible for the four health care facilities in the corridor – Squamish General Hospital, Hilltop House and the Whistler and Pemberton diagnostic and treatment centres – also attended the Whistler meeting.

WHCF treasurer Mitch Rhodes says it was a valuable opportunity for foundation members to meet face-to-face and get to know each other. He says any concrete plans for co-operative projects are unlikely to be made prior to the groups’ next scheduled meeting in the fall. However, he says some tentative ideas were put forward.

"We are all keen to look at fund-raising opportunities that can be corridor wide, as well as possibly sharing the software costs for a new, efficient donor database computer system," Rhodes said.

A key mandate of the foundations is to raise money locally for medical equipment and services not provided for by the provincial government. Rhodes says the three communities have different needs and may not have the same priorities in terms of capital and equipment. "Whistler, for example, is more a trauma centre for sporting injuries than either Squamish or Pemberton, but having an open dialogue will help improve communications to identify ways we can work together."

Bruce MacFayden, who chairs the Pemberton foundation and the financial committee for the CHC, adds that the trio of foundations must also ensure good communication with the CHC, which in turn deals with the provincial government.

"There is no point fund-raising for a certain piece of capital equipment to be shared in the corridor for example, if there is no operational funding from government to keep it running or keep it staffed," MacFayden said. He believes last weekend’s meeting signals a new era in co-operative networking and that future meetings will yield more ideas for improving regional health services.

However the closer relationship between the three foundations is unlikey to lead to any significant changes in the near future.

Christine Buttkus, co-chair of the WHCF fund-raising committee, says there is no talk at this stage of amalgamating foundations in the corridor.

"People are proceeding very cautiously in a way that’s going to be perceived as best by their communities," she said. "There are a whole menu of potential options to consider and no one is ready to look at that possibility yet. Rather it’s about trying to work together and checking out any benefits that arise."

Reducing overhead costs through sharing of resources is a primary goal, she adds.

Fran Cuthbert, chair of the Sea to Sky CHC board of directors, says the growing regional focus of the three foundations reflects the philosophy of bringing in medical equipment suitable for use in the whole corridor. However she says it would be "premature" to list the type of medical equipment under consideration prior to feedback from the Ministry of Health. She says ultimately any improved communication between health providers bodes well for the communities and she supports the move by the foundations.

In the interim, the Pemberton & District Health Care Foundation is continuing to raise money for local health services by holding its sixth annual charity golf tournament on July 6. MacFayden says on average the event raises more than $10,000 for the Pemberton Health Centre. The money is then channelled into buying new equipment, renovations, health care programs and educational scholarships.

Individuals or businesses can sponsor a tee hole for $300 or share the advertising spot for half the amount. Those wanting to swing a club can pony up $100, which includes 18 holes of golf, a gourmet dinner, door prizes and the chance to win three different holes in one. MacFayden hints that the meal alone is worth coming for. The event is sponsored by Cardinal Concrete and Pemberton Valley Golf & Country Club.

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