Foundation of Health

St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation plays a vital role in supporting local health services.

If you were seeking a problem that is causing more confusion and diversity of opinions in the Comox Valley than ‘Hospital Angst’ you would be hard-pressed to find one.

Some want it here; some want it there; some want one great big one to serve Campbell River and the Comox Valley, ask and even others want two brand new ones—one in Campbell River and one in the Comox Valley.

Meanwhile, glaucoma any proposed siting has become an exasperating quandary due to the fact that the original Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) approved site was kiboshed by the federal government due to airspace and flight-path woes pertaining to CFB Comox.  An alternate setting for the facility is yet to be decided and wherever is decided, order Cumberland will invariably want it closer to that community.

The Foundation raises funds for vital hospital equipment such as the GE treadmill above, used for cardiac stress testing. Above, 85-year-old Walter Wilson tries out the treadmill under the watchful eyes of (left to right) Beth Cosgrove, Chief Therapist Craig Dickson, Lynn Dashkewytch and Dr. Jason Wale.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s Hospital sits in the middle of all this consternation and must continue to carry on effectively until some sort of resolution is reached—sooner or later.

And persevering with her task—the primary one of which is fundraising—is Lynn Dashkewytch, the Executive Director and administrator of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation.

While St. Joe’s (which has been the pillar of in-patient and out-patient medical services in the Comox Valley for just one year shy of a century) receives its major funding from the provincial health ministry via the Vancouver Island Health Authority, many of its vital equipment needs are filled by the Hospital Foundation, and hence the people of the Comox Valley and other communities that use the hospital’s services.

It’s important that the public understands the differences between the operating budget of the hospital per se and the role of the Foundation in the overall picture.

“The most common misunderstanding about the Foundation concerns the role it plays and the connection to the hospital itself,” Dashkewytch says.  “Many are surprised to learn that the Foundation is a separate legal entity, detached from St. Joseph’s General Hospital. The Foundation operates under its own constitution and bylaws.”

She explains why such funding is necessary, even though the provincial government funds healthcare. “Every year VIHA receives funds for capital equipment purchases from the provincial government and allocates them across the Island,” she says.

“The Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital Board contributes 40 per cent of the allocation. However, it is increasingly difficult for the government to provide the required amount to match the urgent need to replace, upgrade and add equipment. If a needed item is not on the approved list there will be no funding to make the purchase, despite its importance.”

While she understands the confusion that arises over funding, she emphasizes that the way in which the hospital can stay up-to-the-minute in terms of medical technology is for the public to help as much as it can afford to and the Foundation endeavors to make that task as easy as possible.

“The input of the public has a vital role in the level of care,” she emphasizes.

“The Hospital Foundation continues to work hard to enhance the community profile so the population is aware that very good things are happening in health care,” Dashkewytch adds.  “We hear from patients and their families on a regular basis of the wonderful care they have received and we are grateful for this feedback and for their heartfelt donations.  Every donation is a step closer to purchasing the vital pieces of equipment needed.”

She cites as an example of this the 200 employees that donate $5 to $10 per paycheque for the staff lottery. A year of this results in more than $25,000 for staff education and equipment.

She adds that in the last five years the Foundation has raised more than $2.5 million and has transferred $1.5 million back to the hospital to purchase equipment and to support capital projects.  Those funds came from service club, grants, community events, estate gifts and members of the community.  In that way almost all of St. Joe’s departments were supported in one form or another.

For example, in 2010/2011 one of the Foundation’s goals was to raise the $195,000 needed for GreenLight™ Laser Therapy and a scope for the operating room.  The therapy is used to treat benign enlargement of the prostate.  A therapy that once took up to seven days of hospital stay as well as an invasive and not very pleasant procedure is narrowed down to less than seven hours and is non-invasive.

“This treatment enhances care for patients, and frees up operating time, and thus beds,” says Dashkewytch.  “This improves wait times for other patients.”

She notes that with the help of the St. Joe’s urology team, a former patient, an anonymous donor, the Comox and Courtenay Legions, as well as many individual donations, the goal was attained and nearly 100 of these procedures have been performed.

“Every department in the hospital affects the lives of people in our community and they, in turn, help us to enhance the equipment and services provided,” Dashkewytch says.

While health care is predominantly about the ‘front line’ of patient care, Dashkewytch knows well how vital the ‘people’ behind the therapies are. And, while she is unstinting in her praises for the medical staff at all levels at St. Joe’s—from the physicians and specialists through the nursing and laboratory staffs, as well as the administrators—she finds that the human face the Foundation can offer is a vital part of that mix.

The Foundation newsletter, which is published biannually in the Echo newspaper as well as home mail-outs convey not only the happenings of the Foundation and the hospital in general, but also shares stories by former patients and their families about the vital role the generosity of the public played in their personal medical crises, whether it’s Green Light Laser Surgery or the Holter Monitor.

“I love it when former patients share their lives with us in this manner,” Dashkewytch says.  “Their stories are all about the relationship side of health care.  These are good news stories that not only show the huge value of our technology, but also the role of staff in their well-being.”

Going under the general title of Caring Spirit, contributions to this legacy of tales is open to any former patient who is grateful for the care that was shown either to themselves, or to a loved one.  And while the stories are valued by the Foundation, so is any financial contribution.  Readers interested in learning more about Caring Spirit and how they might lend a hand, if so inclined, can contact the Foundation.

For Dashkewytch to be in the position in which she now finds herself involved a somewhat convoluted course to get to a place that seems to be such a natural fit for an individual who is a self-professed “people person.”  She is certainly far removed from her original career, where she was the Kootenays territory representative for Molson Canada.  The Kootenays are home—she was born and raised in Kimberley, BC.

The advertising sales component of her Molson job demanded a level of comfort in dealing with a diverse public.  Yet, when she left Molson in 2003, after 10 years with them, she made what would seem like a quantum leap—from a business involved in the manufacture and distribution of potent potables, to the Salvation Army—a realm that sometimes deals with individuals who have run afoul of those same potables.  How does such a change happen?

It came about after a move to Campbell River where she, her husband Paul, who had taken a position as manager of the Storey Creek Golf Course, and their two sons, decamped. Once there she had to decide what she wanted to do.  Initially all she was seeking was a volunteer position and she found that with the Salvation Army in that community.

“The first year I was there they asked me if I would help with their Christmas program and I readily agreed to do so,” she says.  “I covered for a woman I’d formerly volunteered with and when she decided to leave she asked me if I wanted her position.  I took the job.”

The job primarily involved working with unemployed clients on needs assessments in the community.  There she found the marketing skills she’d employed in her former work helped her immeasurably.

While she liked the work well enough and found it challenging in a positive way, and genuinely embraced the plights of some of her clients, the family decided to seek a move to the Comox Valley, especially after her husband took the position he still holds, as manager of Glacier Greens Golf Course.  Once again Dashkewytch was left needing to find a position, but that wouldn’t remain the case for long.

And then it happened.  A business contact in Victoria told her that St. Joseph’s was looking for somebody to head up their Foundation and thought it would be right up her alley.  So, in May 2007 the association began and she has never looked back.

“It has all been just perfect for me,” Dashkewytch says.  “I have a really good relationship with the board members, and an equally fine one with the hospital.”

That being said, Dashkewytch was to find out early that the task was no small one.  In the first place, she wanted to put her imprint on the position and, at the same time had to fulfill the criteria of the job description. A description that includes raising funds, sustaining and enhancing quality health care, increasing awareness of the Foundation as a vital conduit to the hospital’s services, building the financial capacity of the Foundation, liaising with the greater community, encouraging and providing access for individual and corporate donors and encouraging grant bequests.

“And it’s vital to bear in mind that all that the Foundation does is for the benefit of the patient,” she says.  “All of this is done with a very small staff that consists of myself and my assistant, Meghan Liddle.  And this small staff must meet very large needs, and I know I could do none of what I do without the support of the public.”

As an example of some of the work that has been done in recent months, some 16,000 mailers have been sent out to the public (of which, this year, as a reflection of the economy, combined with confusion over the ongoing hospital(s) debate, only some 600 positive responses have been returned).

Dashkewytch fully understands the confusion around the hospital situation and what the future holds for the community. She stresses, however, that regardless of what final decision is made on the siting of a future facility, any purchases made (with the public’s welcome assistance) by St. Joe’s will be transferred to the new hospital, so no expenditure will be redundant.

“What this means,” she says, “is that support from members of the community will continue to be vitally important now more than ever.  Such support, both moral and financial, will help maintain and enhance quality health care for the whole community.”

In this she hearkens to the words of St. Joseph’s Chief Executive Officer, Jane Murphy who has noted that “St. Joseph’s still has a number of years in which it must maintain the current services and grow with the times in terms of medical technology and services. Among those services there is always the pressing need to enhance and update equipment in order to meet the needs of a population that is both growing and demographically aging.”

So, for Dashkewytch life is now a matter of getting the message out as much as anything else. St. Joseph’s Hospital is alive and well and thanks to the welcome contributions of the public, former patients, service clubs and other groups the Foundation is enabled to play a vital role in keeping up-to-the-minute in terms of clinical technology, which enables hospital staff and medical specialists to carry out therapies that are so vitally needed by the population it serves.

And until such a time as a new hospital comes into being and equipment is transferred to that site, any and all contributions and bequests will continue to be welcomed.  “It’s the success stories that continue to keep me vitalized and loving my job,” Dashkewytch says.

For more information about the St. Joesph’s Hospital Foundation and how you can help please email: [email protected] or call 250-890-3046.