SPHF: A strong foundation

Local volunteers and donors help to keep local hospital in top shape  

Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation executive director Karen Morgan in one of the hospital’s palliative care rooms.

There’s a vison, shared by a dedicated group of people, that the Saanich Peninsula Hospital will continue to be considered the community’s hospital and valued for not only its medical services but for its role in making lives on the Peninsula more healthy and comfortable.

Built in the mid-1970s, the hospital has served the community for more than 30 years. Early in its existence, a group of local residents saw that to keep the facility in top shape and filled with the spaces and instruments staff would need to provide better health care services, they would need to step up. In 1985, approximately seven years after the hospital was built, those people created the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation. It’s mission: to ensure the facility and the equipment within were available to support people’s health care. It was a step taken to ensure the hospital received the extras – and sometimes the essentials – that could not be provided in a timely manner by provincial funding alone.

For years, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation (SPHF) was a volunteer-driven organization. For the most part, that continues today with a volunteer board of directors.

It was in the 1990s that to be effective and efficient, the Foundation needed a full-time executive director. Since then, there have been four executive directors whose job it has been to co-ordinate fundraising efforts, handle bequests, monitor Foundation projects and be a liaison with the community and hospital staff. Since 2000, Karen Morgan has been in this role and can guide people through the busy history of the Foundation’s work at the hospital.

“Over the years,” she explains, “the Foundation and its community has been there whenever there’s a threat to the hospital or health care on the Peninsula. At various times the community mobilized and demanded change or services.”

Expanding within

Since 2000, Morgan said the Foundation has raised money through various means (that will be explained later) for projects large and small. On the small side, they have found resources for new beds, wheelchairs and specialized equipment like laproscopes for the operating rooms.

The larger projects have taken place over a series of months or years and include a new emergency department (opened in 2003), a palliative care wing that the SPHF found 33 per cent of the total funding to pay for it  and building expansions for places like extended care.

When she first started in her role, Morgan said the Foundation was only paying for new equipment needed by hospital staff.

“We soon dipped a toe into the facility itself and we haven’t looked back.”

In her time to date, the SPHF has helped pay for two renovations in extended care.

The Foundation also had a major role in the creation of new, modern operating rooms and the expansion of the hospital to create a large chapel facility.

They have also been instrumental in developing new programs at the hospital.

Music therapy, Morgan said, sees a trained counsellor use music and education to reach people in extended and palliative care.

“It’s the one operating expense the Foundation does for the hospital,” Morgan said, adding they receive support from sources such as the Air Force Veterans Society (ANAVETS).

Most recently, the Foundation has been raising money to pay for the conversion of the former operating rooms in the hospital to a pre-and-post-op area.

It’s a large project that includes revamping the storage areas for sterile materials used in the operating rooms.

Community support

In 1978, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital was built for approximately $1.4 million.

In 2013, the estimated cost to renovate operating rooms into pre-and-post-op space is $3 million.

“Times have changed,” said Morgan.

The SPHF is a major fundraiser for the hospital and it’s part of Morgan’s job to co-ordinate events, bequests and donations that will help keep the facility a modern and attractive working environment for staff.

The basics are covered by the province, of course. It’s the extras and the additional cash needed for specific equipment for space that the Foundation supports.

Since 2000, when Morgan came on board, the SPHF has raised nearly $24 million.

Raising this sort of money is a big job and starts at small fundraisers and grows into large ones.

There are also bequests – donations made by individual estates after people die.

Bequests to the Foundation in recent years have reached $1.4 million – around the same amount as the price to build the hospital in the first place.

Each time money is needed – for efforts large and small – the Foundation turns to its community supporters.

“There is a large group of people in this community that have a strong sense of ownership in their hospital.”

Looking to the future

Over the years since the Foundation was created, it has received steady communtiy support.

Even through 2008 when organizations reliant on fundraising began to suffer, the SPHF maintained their support.

“People have a sense of ownership, from the business community to people in the neighbourhoods,” Morgan said, adding they also receive donations from other community groups.

It’s this level of support that will keep the SPHF facing local challenges head-on.

These days, the biggest challenge, said Morgan, is retaining family doctors.

The SPHF board has been talking about how they can play a role in keeping doctors on the Peninsula.

“The Foundation wants to help. It’s the front line of health care in this community.”