South Algonquin hears from St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation

The St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation’s executive director Erin Grienow, Dr. Joseph Cybulski and Ray Pastway, volunteer members of the campaign leadership team from their Emergency Department Redevelopment Campaign presented to South Algonquin council at their meeting on Feb. 7, telling them about their plans to revamp their emergency department and ambulatory care services department and requesting a donation of $20,000 over the next two to three years. Council said they’d consider doing this when discussing their budget for the coming year. Grienow and Mayor Ethel LaValley comment on the presentation.

Grienow told council on Feb. 7 that she, Cybulski and Ray were there to share information on this important project at the St. Francis Valley Memorial Hospital in Barry’s Bay and for their area. It will entail a 6,000 square foot addition to their emergency department and a 6,000 square foot renovation to their ambulatory care services department. This addition to the emergency department would boast a whole host of improvements, including improved privacy and confidentiality, a larger centralized communication centre for staff, better sightlines, a dedicated entrance and a separate waiting area for the emergency department, a separate EMS personnel work area, a medication room, a separate isolation room with its own washroom (for infection control), and much more. The ambulatory care services department renovation would boast improved services for telemedicine, wound care, blood transfusions and IV therapy. They then showed a video to council of all the improvements they’ll be doing to the hospital once they’ve raised the required funds to do the renovation and the addition to the facility.

Dr. Cybulski took council through a history of the hospital. “The first hospital in Barry’s Bay was in 1935 and was run by a physician privately. After it closed, discussion began about a real publicly funded hospital in the area. A new charter was sought to build a new hospital in 1947 and it was granted in 1952. Fundraising then began in a serious fashion and eventually the new hospital came to fruition and building began in 1959,” he says. This new hospital opened it’s doors in 1960, and a new wing began operating 27 years later, housing a larger emergency department. Initially, approximately 5,300 patients would visit per year, but that has now ballooned to around 11,000 patients per year. Cybulski said that 63 per cent of patient interactions are through the emergency department. At this point, however, this once state of the art emergency department is almost 40 years old and needs an update to remain competitive for today’s healthcare needs, both for the community and for the healthcare professionals working at this hospital. It will also preclude the need for patients to be transported over an hour in each direction from Barry’s Bay to get the care they may require.

The St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation is an active registered charity established in 2001 that works with local healthcare organizations in the Madawaska Valley to raise money for medical equipment and services based on the long-term plans for the healthcare needs of the community. They serve the needs of St. Francis Valley Memorial Hospital (including Rainbow Valley Community Health Centre), Valley Manor Nursing Home and the Madawaska Valley Palliative Care program.

Grienow told council that their Growing Together fundraising campaign began in 2021 and started working with a volunteer campaign leadership team in 2023. She said that right now, they were in the quiet phase. “We’re reaching out to individuals and businesses that have the capacity to give major gifts. So, we’re sitting down with them, we’re explaining everything about the project, they see the video. What we’re doing now is working through these meetings until 70 to 80 per cent of our goal is raised. And at that time, we would announce the campaign to our community and that’s usually at some ground breaking milestone at the hospital. And at that time, we’d invite the whole community to raise the remainder of the funds needed,” she says.

The overall cost of this project is $20.4 million, and the total local share that would need to be raised by the fundraising campaign committee is $2.7 million; $1.7 million or 10 per cent of the “bricks and mortar” build, and another $1 million for furnishings and medical equipment, which the community has to pay 100 per cent of the cost of. Pastway pointed out other municipalities contributing to hospital upgrades like Faraday, who donated $500,000 to the CT scanner at the Bancroft hospital. “The opportunity we have now to make this happen helps us for longevity of our hospital to provide that service to the people in the area,” he says.

Pastway thanked South Algonquin for contributing to the hospital over the years, saying he knew they understood what it means to the local area. He subsequently asked them to donate $20,000 over the next two to three years toward this initiative. “So, it will definitely, to some degree, ensure longevity of the hospital, we wouldn’t be another Minden [whose emergency department closed recently]. It would definitely be a potential growth for businesses and it’s an investment in the community, tourism, real estate, development, whatever. I think one of the main captions of all that is a thriving hospital is a thriving community. There’s so much that’s built around that, other than health itself. That’s why I’m here. I just support it so much. I had to be part of it all. I think it’s such a good thing for our area,” he says.

After some questions and discussion from council, LaValley told Grienow, Cybulski and Pastway that they would talk about it and potentially make such a donation during their upcoming budget discussions. LaValley says that Grienow, Cybulski and Pastway did a wonderful presentation to council on Feb. 7. “They seemed to have all their facts together and were very courteous and helpful. We will discuss this at our budget meeting,” she says.

Grienow told The Bancroft Times that they received a very warm welcome from the team at South Algonquin and appreciated the time they took to learn more about their Emergency Department Redevelopment project. “Council came prepared and their questions were well thought out. Feedback from community leaders helps us better understand what people are thinking,” she says. “We appreciate the township’s past support and we look forward to a continued partnership in local healthcare.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times