Fundraising for new hospital means laying down swords

First published: Sept. 13, 2000

There is a lot of excitement in the air these days. Campaigns tend to do this. Candidates for the upcoming municipal elections in November are announcing their intentions almost daily. Then, there is the United Way, which is launching its major fund-raising campaign this fall. But there is a quite campaign underway in West Northumberland that is not getting huge publicity, but merits a close look.

The campaign to raise $8.5 million for the new hospital in our community is already taking place with the same amount of energy and dedication as the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush for American president. Campaign chair Bill Patchett, along with 30 or so volunteers are calling on businesses, foundations and individuals seeking large donations. Using the term, silent campaign, Patchett described this phase as one of the most important. Campaign workers are looking for sums of $25,000 or more (in some cases asking for $1 million) to be given over a five-year period. It is crucial to the overall fund-raising effort because it is the foundation on which the public campaign, involving a larger section of the community, is built. That would involve service clubs and other organizations, door to door soliciting and other everyday activities we normally associate with fund-raising. Come early in 2001, when the more visible activity starts, Patchett said he hopes to have 75 per cent of the money needed. The silent campaign is a difficult task involving repeated visits and lengthy waiting time as people decide how much they will give.

Patchett defines the campaign by saying he wants to raise enough money to have “one of the finest equipped hospitals in Canada”.  He is Northumberland County’s version of Mel Lastman, never shy for embellishing his point of view. But while it may seem exaggerated, in fact, Patchett is making a subtle point. West Northumberland needs a first-class hospital for many reasons.

When the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge Health Unit did a recent study, all four counties in its jurisdiction (including Northumberland) exceeded the provincial average of 12 per cent population age 65 and over. What it means is our community has a larger than normal number of older people. Often this portion of the community has the greatest health care needs. A new hospital will serve these people well.

A new hospital will also attract more doctors to the area. For those who doubt this, look at Brantford General Hospital, which recently added six new physicians in July. A provincial government consultant said one of the reasons the doctors are coming is the new operating rooms being built at the hospital.

“Your (Brantford’s) plan to attract specialists works,” said Jan Gottschalk in an article in the local newspaper. “Maybe it is a prescription for other hospitals.”

For those worried this huge fund-raising drive will harm other worthy causes, fear not, said Patchett. No public fund-raising for the hospital will take place until the new year, leaving a clear opportunity for the United Way. The hospital fund-raising campaign will also not mirror the payroll deduction method used so successfully by the United Way. Both groups have met to ensure no conflicts.

“The type of people who give to the hospital during this (silent) phase are the kinds of people who also support other causes. It should not affect anyone,” Patchett said.

There are a host of other reasons for donating, as well. Unfortunately, not everyone sees the benefits. A group of Port Hope and Hope Township residents continue to balk. Neither Port Hope nor Hope Township council has made a financial commitment to the campaign, where other municipalities have made their pledges. And with the upcoming municipal elections, there are those ruthless enough to make the closing of Port Hope’s hospital an election issue. And there are still others who will use the public debates to grind away once more.

It is time to move on. There could be no finer an example of grace in defeat than Preston Manning. In July, after losing the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party to Stockwell Day (a political movement Manning built from nothing), he gave an emotion speech that spoke to the core principles of democracy.

“It is easy to believe in democracy when the vote goes your way. But the real test of our commitment to democracy is our acceptance of the result when the vote goes the other way,” he said.

The decision about the future of health care in our community has been made. The province has put its money on the table. A majority of Port Hope and Hope Township residents seem quite prepared to get on with the task of creating a new health care centre for West Northumberland. Any politicians who cannot see this have misread the public will. Any citizens who think the timing is good to reignite the fires of discontent are misguided.

Patchett said it best.

“What a marvelous opportunity to ensure the health of future children,”

Certainly, it deserves serious consideration.

Note: The editor of the Saturday Cobourg Star brought roars of laughter to our house this past weekend with the feature on Vote 2000. I am humbled by the prospect of being considered as a potential candidate by the editor, but I’ll pass on politics. It is just too much fun being a journalist.

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