[EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the posting of this story, there have been a couple clarifications made. We apologize for the errors. Read updated version below.]
‘The gift that keeps on giving’ is an often-used – now clichéd – line used in countless advertising campaigns during the Christmas season.
Nevertheless, that phrase could serve as a perfect description for making a donation to the ongoing ‘St. Martha’s and you: The time is NOW…’ campaign.
“What is the most important thing we have – it is our health,” campaign chair Steve Smith said.
“We have to be willing to give a little bit of what we have to strengthen our biggest asset [our hospital].”
As part of the initiative, the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation (SMRHF) launched its annual Christmas appeal with the traditional mail-out of donation cards to households in the region in mid-November.
“It has been going really well [the appeal], and we think it is a great gift that will mean so much in our community,” foundation chair Wayne Ezekiel said.
Since its launch in the fall of 2017, ‘St. Martha’s and you: The time is NOW…’ campaign has garnered more than $16 million, more than 80 per cent of the goal to increase the foundation’s endowment fund to $20 million by 2026.
When the initiative launched, the foundation had $3.5 million in its coffers.
“We are very excited about how successful our campaign has been and how many people have supported us,” Smith said.
He added more than 1,850 people have made either five-year pledges or one-time contributions.
“It has been amazing – how generous our business community and our residents have been,” Smith said.
Although many have realized “the importance of healthcare,” through their support of the endowment fund, he reminded there is room to grow, considering the regional hospital serves more than 50,000 residents of the Quad Counties.
“A little bit goes a long way,” Smith said, noting there are options – monthly, quarterly and yearly – to support the campaign.
Along with a variety of flexible ways to pay, there are tax benefits available, particularly for those who have made more than $200 in donations to eligible charities.
“After that, every cent you give, it is a 50 per cent tax [benefit] back to you,” Smith noted.
To illustrate, if someone contributes $1,000 over a year, it is actually $500; people will get a taxable income benefit back.
The SMRHF’s endowment fund helps purchase equipment and upgrade existing equipment to maintain and expand patient services, along with providing training for doctors and hospital staff, which allows them to remain at the lead of medical advances and patient care.
“When I say we are at more than $16 million, we are also spending money,” Smith noted.
This year, the foundation financed the capital costs ($600,000) for a new six-bed palliative care unit at St. Martha’s which opened in June.
“That doesn’t happen if we had relied on government funding,” Smith noted.
That highlight also illustrated the close relationship the foundation has with the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Auxiliary, which contributed $150,000 for the purchase of furnishings and equipment for the unit.
“Both have been amazingly effective in keeping our hospital where it is,” Smith said of the volunteer organizations.
Having a strong foundation and auxiliary, he noted, is invaluable because they can partner – both with each other and the Nova Scotia Health Authority – to make purchases.
“When cost-sharing is needed, we have the money available to do so,” he said, reiterating one of the benefits of having a strong endowment fund.
Another milestone in 2018 came in September, when the Sobey Foundation announced a $1-million gift earmarked for cardio-respiratory care.
At the now-named Sobey Cardiorespiratory Services, St. Martha’s patients will receive improved acute and chronic care for heart and lung diseases through more education, services and equipment.
In keeping with that collaborative theme, the annual Hospital Help Day – a radio-thon partnership with 98.9 XFM amassed more than $66,000, which will go towards the purchase of an equipment piece for St. Martha’s ophthalmology department.
“We receive tremendous support throughout the year,” Ezekiel noted of those key foundation relationships.
Along with larger events, there are many others staged across the Quad Counties, where proceeds go to SMRHF.
A healthy and growing SMRHF endowment fund provides myriad benefits, including the recruitment and retention of healthcare providers.
“They have choices; to get a nurse, a lab technician or many other healthcare professionals needed, besides doctors, is very challenging,” Smith said.
It is much easier to attract specialists, if St. Martha’s can provide the equipment, training and tools they need to do their work.
There are also broader economic benefits, when healthcare specialists decide to call this region home. Ezekiel noted attracting people with such expertise means a $1-million cash infusion into the local economy.
Also, along the lines of dollars and cents, St. Martha’s has a more than $90-million annual operating budget, with most of the monies going directly into the economy as wages.
There are also spinoff benefits; many businesses in the region profit from having St. Martha’s as a strong employer.
The regional hospital has more than 860 staff members, along with 68 doctors, most of which are specialists.
‘Need never goes away’
Even with those successes – and a growing endowment fund – foundation members are not resting on their laurels.
“The need never goes away,” Ezekiel said, in stressing how crucial having such monies is to the future of St. Martha’s.
As further illustration of that ongoing requirement – one that is only going to increase – Smith crunched some numbers, when it comes to the aging population of the Quad Counties.
“I preach it over and over,” he said of the alarming demographics, noting as people age – more often than not – the need for healthcare increases.
In the last census (2016), 25 per cent of the region’s population were 65 or older.
“By 2026, less than eight years from now that will increase to 42 per cent and top 50 per cent five years later," he said.
In those terms, Smith noted, the Quad Counties are “in a lot of trouble.”
“A lot of people continue to fail to realize the challenge that we face,” he said.
‘Nothing more important’
To learn more about ‘St. Martha’s and you: The time is NOW…’ or to make a donation, contact SMRHF executive director Sarah MacDonald, at 902-863-6414 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or fund development associate, Sadie Benoit, at 902-863-1131 or Sadie.email@example.com, or visit the foundation website – smrhfoundation.com
“There is nothing any of us can think of that is more important or has a greater impact on our lives [than healthcare],” Smith said.