MONCTON – A drummer interrupts Robert K. Irving’s speech as chair of the Extraordinary Care Campaign at the Avenir Centre on Thursday. He was there to provide the literal drum roll to Irving’s announcement that the Friends of the Moncton Hospital Foundation is working to raise $8 million – its largest fundraising campaign ever.
So far, $5.6 million in donations and pledges have been raised, including $1 million from J.D. Irving. The money will be given over a five-year period. Individuals and businesses in the community are also encouraged to donate.
“I think leadership today comes from private enterprise as well as government, and I think private enterprise has to play a role in community,” Irving said. “And it’s very important because our employees use the hospital for their own personal care, and people in the community need the best healthcare facilities for their families.”
The money will be used to build a maternity and newborn unit, and to relocate and expand the cardiac care unit. The hospital’s neonatal section is far from being ideal right now, said David Savoie, foundation chair and owner of Acadian Construction.
“Last year, there was rust in the duct work and they had to shut down neonatal, and it’s been a makeshift operation to keep neonatal going for now. But they absolutely need care. So, we don’t select the project. People in the healthcare system tell us where they need help,” he said.
The campaign is supported by many in the Greater Moncton business community. Individuals like Hawk Marketing senior advisor Bill Whalen are donors who also give their expertise to the campaign. Others, like former premier Frank McKenna and wife Julie, also donated. Businesses like ExxonMobil, Actus Law, RBC and others have also made monetary commitments.
The active participation of the private sector is needed, Savoie said.
“In New Brunswick and across Canada we’ve come to rely on the government. And it’s a system that can no longer support what we’d like out of our healthcare system. And since we’re using it, it’s important for us as citizens and companies to give back and help fund what we need in our community,” he said.
The new cardiac care unit would be larger, more modern and include private rooms for patients that are placed in a way that allows seamless care. The construction date for the building has not been set.
Dr. Ron Bourgeois, a cardiologist who is part of the campaign, said the new facility will be a “huge improvement” and will help the care ecosystem in the province.
“It’s definitely to complement the services that are being done in the New Brunswick Heart Centre. If [patients] need to go to Saint John for an angiogram or a bypass surgery then they get it done there. Often we’ll receive them back almost immediately,” he said.
Dr. Ken Gillespie, an obstetrician who is also the chief of staff at the Moncton hospital, said the new neonatal facility will be a “quantum leap forward” to meet community needs.
“We’re providing the same level of care as the IWK does. So I mean, to have that kind of expertise here just means patients don’t have to travel to other cities and that we’re able to look after New Brunswick patients in their own province,” he said.
He said the new building, which will include an expanded and enhanced Labour and Birthing Unit, Neonatal ICU and Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic, will benefit the communities where the hospitals may not be able to provide the same care.
“Smaller hospitals, they face their challenges. But when we need this level of care, we need to make sure that we’re ready to provide it,” he said.
The new facility aims to improve outcomes for the mothers, cut length of hospital stay and prevent the spread of infection, among other things. Construction will begin in June 2019, with occupancy scheduled for late 2021.