ARICHAT: A long-time supporter of the local hospital continued the tradition.
Port Hawkesbury Paper, the owners of the Point Tupper paper mill, recently donated $100,000 to the Strait Richmond Health Care Foundation to assist with a $1.3 million renovation project at the Strait-Richmond Hospital.
Fundraiser and businessman Joe Shannon recalled that when it was confirmed 40 years ago during the planning stages for the hospital construction that 20 per cent of the funding had to be generated from the community, the first place he visited was Nova Scotia Pulp Limited.
At the time, he spoke with the mill’s vice-president of finance, Lars Anderson, who gave them a large contribution.
“He played a major role in the contribution the mill made to help us get started,” Shannon recalled. “They gave us a corporate donation of $250,000 to start the thing off.”
Then after speaking with the union representing workers at the mill, Shannon recounted how they stepped up.
“We put in place a payroll check-off program for the employees so they could contribute to the mill over five years and we got another $250,000 from the employees,” he recalled. “That really was a strong commitment.”
D.R. MacDonald was mill personnel superintendent at the time and served as a company representative on the community committee to establish the hospital.
“In 1980, approximately 1,100 employees invested in their health care future by contributing through a payroll deduction campaign to the building of the new hospital,” recalled. “It mattered to many of us that we support a new hospital to serve our community. The nearest medical facilities at that time were either in Sydney or Antigonish, and we felt it was so important to have closer access to emergency and medical services.”
This month, D. R. and his son Dean, were on hand to present the donation to members of the foundation. Dean MacDonald was hired at the mill in 1983 and held various roles over the years. He is currently line manager of Paper Machine 2.
“I’m proud to represent the mill and, with my father, represent two generations of supporters as well as two generations that have benefited from the hospital being there for us,” says Dean. “The Strait-Richmond Hospital has been so important to the health of many in this region, and certainly to all the employees of the mill and their families. Everyone here has either needed the services of the hospital or has known someone who has, at one time or another.”
When the foundation approached Port Hawkesbury Paper to help with the recent upgrades, Shannon said they “stepped up immediately.”
“We are very pleased and thankful today, and we’d like to thank all the employees, for giving to us 40 years ago and they’re giving more money today,” Shannon said. “It’s their children and grandchildren that are enjoying the benefits of this new expansion of the hospital.”
Mike Hartery and Bevan Lock, mill co-managers, said their contribution will recognize former colleague Marc Dube.
“Marc worked for Ron Stern and partners, playing a key role in the re-opening of the mill eight years ago,” Hartery said. “Marc will always be remembered for his positive spirit and eagerness to work together, which was evident in everything he did until his time of passing in 2018.”
A plaque in Dube’s memory will be installed in the newly renovated area of the hospital.
“Marc’s dedication to the success of Port Hawkesbury Paper and his focus on community engagement ensured that we have been able to contribute to our community’s sustainability in a meaningful way,” said Lock. “He cared very much about this area and the broader region.”
After starting planning in 2018 and going through various designs and reviews, on November 10, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) issued a press release confirming that work on the 15-bed facility was underway under the direction of Brilun Construction of Sydney.
Construction started in September, with the end of all work expected in the late spring
The work includes renovations to the emergency department, laboratory and specimen collection, as well as the registration area. The registration area at the main entrance will be renovated to accommodate registration for admitting, lab services and diagnostic imaging (X-ray).
All registration for lab and diagnostic imaging (X-ray) appointments will take place there.
The old lab space will be renovated to include updated lab space, as well as two ambulatory care rooms. Currently, patients who need ambulatory care are seen in the emergency department so the renovations will provide a dedicated space for visiting specialists to hold clinics and see patients.
As a result of the renovations to the hospital, Shannon said the hope is that more specialists can be attracted to set up shop in Richmond County, meaning fewer residents having to travel for appointments.
The NSHA said the work will be done using a phased approach. This current phase is expected to take between five and six months to complete and departments will return to their renovated spaces as they are completed.
The next phase of work will begin within the emergency department. That work includes relocating the triage area inside the department and reconfiguring the department’s nursing station. According to the NSHA, washrooms will also be updated.
“We are thankful for the generosity and support the mill and its staff have shown the hospital over the years and look forward to the enhanced services this donation will help us provide at the hospital,” said Aurine Richard, fundraising coordinator for the Strait Richmond Health Care Foundation.
The renovations are a partnership between the NSHA and the foundation. Nova Scotia Health is contributing $650,000 to the project, while the foundation raised more than $900,000 from corporate and private donations.
“People of this community understand that this is their hospital,” Shannon added. “And they know that they have to keep it up or the government will do something that we don’t want them to do. That’s just the way life is today. Governments don’t have very much money so they can’t do a lot, so we have to do more. We are pleased that the mill has stepped up once again.”