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Alberta’s Health System

The impact and importance of privately-donated dollars


According to albertacanada.com, Albertans are ensured equal access to the best medical services available, which is a top priority for the government. Leading-edge research, technology and clinical skills contribute to maintaining a sophisticated health-care environment in Alberta.

But in order for Albertans to have “the best medical services available,” adequate funding is necessary. So where exactly does this funding come from? The provincial health system is publicly administered and funded (one-third of the entire provincial budget). But it also relies heavily on privately-donated dollars. Without the generosity of individuals and corporations, hospitals would not be able to offer the services that they do. Charities, such as Calgary Health Trust and Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, exist solely to fundraise for public hospitals in Calgary.

The various charitable initiatives can vary wildly in scope and influence – from large-scale professional fundraisers that can generate millions each year to smaller volunteer groups that collect hundreds or thousands of dollars.

“Alberta Health Services (AHS) is incredibly grateful for our foundation partners, including the Calgary Health Trust and Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, for funding health-care advancements across the province. Their support is essential to providing the best possible quality of care to Albertans,” says Brenda Huband, vice president and chief health operations officer, central and southern Alberta.

Currently, says Huband, there are 69 AHS-affiliated health foundations, including the Calgary Health Trust and Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, who collectively raise an estimated $250 million annually in support of health care across Alberta.

“Through donor support, our foundation partners fund enhancements to health-care delivery including equipment, programs, renovations, research and education across the province and raise funds for a variety of AHS-operated health-care facilities, including hospitals. Each foundation raises funds many different ways, including charitable donations, events, community-hosted fundraisers and capital campaigns.”

Calgary Health Trust is a Calgary-based charity focused on fundraising that will “transform health care in Alberta.” The incredible generosity of the foundation’s donors has helped to raise more than $450 million for health care since 1996. They fundraise for Foothills Medical Centre, Peter Lougheed Centre, Rockyview General Hospital, South Health Campus, Carewest, and hundreds of community-based programs.

According to the foundation, in the 2017-18 fiscal year, Calgary Health Trust’s net fundraising was $24,313,551 with $11,156,400 disbursed for equipment, research, programs and education. Money is raised through lotteries, major gifts and bequests, events, and annual giving programs.

Recently, Calgary Health Trust contributed $2.9 million towards the Maternity Care Unit at Peter Lougheed Centre. This new space will accommodate 1,000 more families per year, with 60 care spaces. Thanks to private donations through Calgary Health Trust, the unit also brings state-of-the-art technology and innovative space design that enhances the overall patient and family experience from prenatal straight through to post-partum care. The foundation’s current priority fundraising project is looking to address, through research and education, why a statistically high one-in-eight newborns in southern Alberta need the care of a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), while concurrently building a world-leading NICU facility at Foothills Medical Centre.

Privately-donated dollars are important to Alberta’s health system as they enhance the quality of care and services patients receive while helping to lead through health-care innovation. With the knowledge that public funding can only go so far, Calgary Health Trust embraces the Good to Great motto in their approach – providing private and community funding through private donors, many of whom are grateful patients and families who have been impacted by the system, endowments, legacy donors as well as events and two major lotteries – Foothills Hospital Home Lottery and Hospital Home Lottery.

“Calgary Health Trust works in partnership with Alberta Health Services to fund initiatives that enhance patient care, and provide world-class health care in our community. This allows us to zero in on investments that will have the greatest impact today and over the long term for Albertans and their families,” says Dr. Chris Eagle, president and CEO of Calgary Health Trust. “I have always been impressed by the tremendous generosity of Calgarians and southern Albertans. This community has shown time and time again that it wants to fund innovations that create change.”

Calgary Health Trust states, “Over the years, the generosity of the community has raised more than $450 million to fund projects that are creating world-class care facilities and improving the quality of life for many patients and their families in this province. Such projects include the Interventional Trauma Operating Room, Cardiac Hybrid Operating Room, Vascular Disease Centre for Excellence, Southern Alberta Institute of Urology and funding for hundreds of community and long-term programs.”

Tiny Footprints Gala raises funds and awareness for pregnancy and infant loss programs as well as provides a safe space for families to share, talk about and honour their losses. Those who attend are the families who have suffered a pregnancy or infant loss as well as members of Calgary’s generous corporate community.

Kristina Oriold, Tiny Footprints Gala co-chair, lost one of her twin daughters seven years ago at birth and used the pregnancy and infant loss programs offered through AHS for many years. Oriold says she is very grateful for the support she received during her difficult experience and wants to ensure the pregnancy and infant loss program has the support necessary to maintain current services, while also improving and expanding for the future.

“I recognized there was a gap in the system in getting the information of these programs to the families who have had a loss. I knew there was a need to raise money for these programs as there was a void in Calgary in support of this cause. This idea turned into a plan with the help of my best friend, Jen Woods, and an incredible formed committee. Together, we planned a gala to honour and recognize these precious lives,” says Oriold.

The funds raised at the gala have had a significant impact on the pregnancy and infant loss programs. “In addition to providing resources for families, the majority of these funds were used to complete a much-needed renovation to the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Clinic at the Foothills Medical Centre,” says Oriold. “This renovation consolidated the services of the clinic into a single space on a wing of the Women’s Health Centre. This new space provides a private, professional and compassionate environment for families to receive the counselling so necessary to honour and celebrate the precious lives and find healing through the grief.”

Oriold explains that before the renovation, services were scattered through the hospital, making them difficult to access or identify thus leaving families feeling alone and unsupported.

“We hope to continue working toward meaningful and tangible support by funding counselling services, informational booklets and memorial materials for families to help them through the hardest moments. As well as raising funds, we are also raising awareness for pregnancy and infant loss.”

Over the last couple of years, Tiny Footprints Gala has raised just over $150,000, with the majority being donated to the renovation. Oriold says the goal is to continue to expand the department in every capacity, including education for staff, and supports in the emergency department and other departments.

Regardless of their size and wealth, all the fundraising efforts made by the foundations and smaller groups provide an essential contribution to the local health system with the goal of transforming health care in Calgary and provincewide.