The Strait Richmond Health Care Foundation accepted the donation of $300,000 from the Shannon family on November 23 at the Strait-Richmond Hospital in Evanston.

ARICHAT: Efforts to upgrade the Strait-Richmond Hospital received a major boost.

The Shannon family has donated $300,000 to the Strait Richmond Health Care Foundation to assist with a $1.3 million renovation project underway at the Evanston facility.

Shannon first came to Port Hawkesbury in 1969, stayed in the town since, raised five children, and now has 14 grandchildren.

“We have been very lucky and I’ve been able to work ever since I got here,” he noted. “I’m thankful and my kids are thankful that we’re in a position where we can contribute $300,000 to the hospital going forward.”

Constructed in 1980, businessman Joe Shannon recalled there was tremendous debate as soon as the new facility was announced.

“There’s been a history of a lot of different views in the eastern Nova Scotia community about the hospital and whether we needed one, and where it should be built,” he recounted.

He credited former Richmond MLA Gaston LeBlanc with helping find common ground.

“He was the one who really steered the thing, and stayed with it, and was determined to get the hospital built, and that’s why the hospital is here today providing service to 12,000 to 15,000 people a year in our community,” Shannon noted.

After staring 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 there, meaning fewer residents having to travel for appointments.

“We recognize the change in the needs for services at the hospital,” Shannon told The Reporter. “We need services that are much more detailed, and more complicated than it was when we built the hospital.”

Not just specialists, Shannon expects this will give the hospital access to better equipment.

“Hopefully when we’re finished here, we’ll have leading-edge equipment, so it’ll be the best,” he noted. “Doctors won’t have to worry about coming here and not having the same quality equipment to work with as they would get in Halifax, or Toronto, or Montreal.”

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.

With strong community, corporate, and government support, as well as a good management team at the the hospital, Shannon is very pleased to help out.

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, which Shannon added will be enough to “finish the job” and provide a “good service for the community.”

“We know that money is hard to come by in Nova Scotia, especially for a small hospital in a rural area,” Shannon added. “But we’ve proven to the government, and to the employees of the government in the department of health, that there is a lot of support, not only from this community directly, but the whole idea of supporting small, local hospitals. We were fortunate enough to talk to some people that we knew and we were able to raise approximately $1 million towards the project. Once the hospital saw that commitment from the community; that it wasn’t going to cost them as much money as they thought it was going to cost them, because of the generosity of the people that gave the money, they came on-side.”