ANTIGONISH – In a time when much of the news around healthcare can be a tough pill the swallow, a dose of welcome medicine is making headlines in northeastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.
The St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation (SMRHF) announced on June 21 that it’s St. Martha’s and You – The Time is Now fundraiser had reached its goal of increasing the healthcare facility’s endowment fund to $20 million.
From D’Escousse to Arisaig and Port Hood to New Harbour – just a few of the communities served by St. Martha’s in Antigonish, Guysborough, Richmond and Inverness counties – there is much to celebrate with word that the effort had achieved its goal more than three years before its 10-year target.
SMRHF Chair Meghan MacGillivray Case – in a press release – said reaching that milestone in less than seven years “speaks to the quality of the healthcare that St. Martha’s provides, and the generosity of our community.”
She added, “We live in an incredibly special place, with incredible supporters.”
In an interview with The Journal, MacGillivray Case said, “We are really pleased,” when it comes to reaching their “lofty goal” in such a short time.
“It is pretty incredible,” she added.
Since the SMRHF announced the landmark, MacGillivray Case said there has “definitely been a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.”
“None of this happens without the generosity of our communities, so everyone should be proud,” she added.
Steve Smith – the first Time is Now chair – said, “We made it.”
The Antigonish businessman and philanthropist added, “I am very proud.”
In the early years of the 2000s, community leaders, including Smith, started conversations about the future of healthcare. Keeping in mind the challenges ahead for the system, including an aging population in the region, they agreed action had to be taken to help solidify the future of St. Martha’s, including its quality staff, equipment and facilities.
The group also realized, in order to maintain St. Martha’s high level of service – considering funding from the province for areas, such as capital purchases, was continuing to dwindle – more monies had to be raised. At that time, there was approximately $3.5 million in SMRHF’s endowment fund, which paled in comparison to other facilities, such as the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow.
So, with the commitment of these community champions, the SMRHF launched The Time is Now campaign in 2016.
“When we started, we had a great team of people who committed generously,” Smith remembered, while noting that the SMRHF board of directors was “behind us 100 per cent.”
From the outset, campaign supporters tirelessly delivered the important message across the four counties to the more than 50,000 people served by St. Martha’s, including the idea that a well-equipped hospital not only provides quality service, but also attracts highly-skilled doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals.
“It was a large goal, but it was needed,” Smith offered, noting that the “great support” provided by SMRHF staff was also a key to success.
While The Time is Now effort flourished – with more than 1,900 individuals, businesses and organizations contributing to the campaign – the SMRHF also continued to spend on St. Martha’s, including equipment purchases.
MacGillivray Case explained that only interest earned on the endowment fund – at a minimum of five per cent annually – is doled out. So, more money in the coffers means higher returns and cash available. In 2022-23, the SMRHF endowment fund committed $916,752, which included enhancing equipment and technology, along with educational and research opportunities for some of the more than 700 staff members and 70 physicians (mostly specialists).
As the SMRHF noted “to ensure appropriate spending in the best interest of the donors and the hospital,” it has developed a formalized policy for endowment fund monies.
MacGillivray Case agreed that having a larger endowment fund allows the SMRHF to fulfill its purpose – at an even higher level – to provide “enhanced equipment, training and research” for St. Martha’s and its people.
Along with the endowment, the SMRHF receives revenue from its parking lot fee fund. And, of course, there are traditional events – such as 989XFM Hospital Help Day, a daylong radio-thon fundraiser broadcast on the regional station – that earmark specific purchases. And other volunteer organizations, such as the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Auxiliary, remain unwavering supporters.
“They are all very special,” Smith – who has been at the forefront of several successful fundraising efforts, including the community’s contribution to the construction of the Keating Centre on StFX’s campus – said when asked where The Time is Now milestone ‘ranks.’
Noting it was an initiative that involved the most volunteers, over the longest time period, he suggested, “I think it has brought our communities together [in the four counties].”
Although reaching the $20-million mark is an “amazing milestone,” as MacGillivray Case offered, the SMRHF is not resting on its laurels; more monies in the endowment fund means more spending on St. Martha’s.
“The need is still great,” she said, noting that costs – such as equipment replacements – will only continue to go up.
Smith agreed, reiterating the importance of “growing [the endowment fund] even more.”
“It is never enough,” he said.
With an eye to continuing the momentum – and keeping the importance of ongoing support for the endowment fund – the SMRHF, with some rebranding, is now delivering the message: Now More Than Ever.
“We want to make sure that we continue to have a solid financial foundation – today, tomorrow and into the future,” MacGillivray Case said.
For more information on the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation and its work, visit smrhffoundation.com.