A cheque for $1 million from Simcoe County has helped conclude the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) expansion fundraising.
The availability of the funding was announced Wednesday at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH), where representatives from the county, the hospital Foundation and hospital had gathered.
“We don’t look at this as a gift to the hospital,” said Gerry Marshall, Warden of Simcoe County. “We look at this as an investment in our community.
“The community isn’t going to prosper without a viable hospital,” he said. “We recognize healthcare is an important cog in every day life.”
Marshall added that the county had provided this money as part of its $45-million commitment over 15 years.
From 2017 to 2031, $3 million will be distributed each year in collaboration with the Simcoe County Hospital Alliance, which includes Waypoint Centre for mental Health Care in Penetanguishene and acute-care hospitals in Simcoe County, such as Barrie, Collingwood, Midland, and Orillia.
“It’s all taxpayer money,” he explained.
Marshall said he would lobby the new provincial government to continue to address funding challenges for hospitals.
“There are several hospitals in the County of Simcoe and they all face challenges in funding,” he said. “We’re happy to be their advocate and voice at Queen’s Park for our hospitals.”
Sarah Barker, a pediatric doctor at OSMH, has had first-hand experience with the previous smaller space, where her third son was born nine years ago.
He had to be kept in the nursery for some breathing issues, she said, recalling a photo from the time that showed her family in front with another mother breastfeeding in the background.
“It was kind of an intimate setting,” said Barker, with a laugh. “It was a different scene back then. The care was the same, but it was in less than half the space now.”
The nursery still accommodates the same number of babies, which is 12, but there is more room for families, especially mothers to be able to spend time with their newborn, she said.
“As a pediatrician, I witness every day the care that goes into looking after the tiniest patients at the hospital,” said Barker.
The expanded facility has new equipment, such as ventilators, incubators, monitors, and sleeper chairs, which give mothers a chance to spend more time with the child, she said.
“Babies do best the more time they spend with their mothers,” said Barker. “The more the mother can be with her baby, the better it is for both.”
The fundraising campaign to expand the NICU started over five years ago with a target of $2.7 million.
Money was raised in the community through OSMH Foundation efforts, said Mark Riczu, executive director of the Foundation.
“I think it’s an incredible investment in the community and in the region,” he said of the county funding. “It acknowledges the strengths of the hospital in the regions and its strengths in the neonatal care.”
None of this, said Riczu, could have happened without the help and support of residents in Simcoe County.
“One of the important things is to thank the residents and ratepayers of the County of Simcoe,” he said. “They are making this investment in the community.”