St. Martha’s fundraisers make Richmond pitch

ARICHAT: Richmond municipal councillors are mulling over a request to contribute $25,000 annually to the St. Martha’s Hospital Foundation over the coming decade.

Three representatives of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation arrived at last week’s regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council for a 45-minute presentation that detailed the foundation’s new campaign “St. Martha’s and You: The Time is NOW.” The campaign coordinators are hoping to add another $20 million to the endowment fund for major medical equipment purchases at the Antigonish hospital by 2026.

While the Municipality of the County of Antigonish has committed to annual donations of $50,000 over the next 10 years, with responses expected shortly from the Town of Antigonish and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, campaign chair Steve Smith recognized that Richmond County residents already receive regular solicitations from those raising funds for health care facilities in Evanston, Arichat and L’Ardoise.

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“There’s always somebody banging on someone’s door, looking for something – I know that. But these are tertiary [facilities] – if something happens, you go over there, but if it’s something serious, where do you go? In most cases, it’s St. Martha’s,” Smith suggested.

“I can guarantee you that, the farther up Richmond County you go, if they think it’s something serious, they don’t stop [at a county-based facility], they keep going, and they use the outpatient or emergency services at St. Martha’s, because they know there’s more there.”

Smith also pointed to the Antigonish hospital’s own statistics, which suggest that 70 per cent of primary care delivered at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital is received by residents of Richmond, Inverness and Guysborough counties. With this in mind, Smith and his colleagues are calling on residents, businesses, and elected officials from across the Strait area to support the facility in the years to come.

“Our four counties are important,” Smith declared.

In making a motion to refer the funding request to Richmond County’s municipal budget deliberations, Isle Madame councillor Alvin Martell described the projections for rising equipment costs, as well as the Strait area’s aging demographics and its projected increase in major disease rates, as “interesting, and scary.”

“People go around their daily lives, not understanding the impact that St. Martha’s has on [the Strait area],” Martell told the March 27 council meeting. “I know, myself, from experience, because I’ve attended the hospital myself and with my family, and I would say that the care they provide is second-to-none. So I think that it’s very important that everybody reaches into their pockets and gives.”

In response to a question from Warden Brian Marchand, St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation board chair Joe MacDonald noted that the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) appears to have reduced funding for equipment at St. Martha’s since it absorbed the former Guysborough-Antigonish-Strait Health Authority (GASHA) in mid-2015.

“Last year, the Nova Scotia Health Authority gave St. Martha’s, for new equipment and technology replacement, $37,000 – that’s it,” Smith pointed out, adding: “We couldn’t buy a half-ton truck with that.”