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Nault heats up dialysis drive

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The acquisition of a dialysis unit at La Verendrye hospital here took another step forward last week after local MP Robert Nault said the federal government will help fund the project.

Nault voiced his support Friday at the Business Improvement Area’s annual luncheon when Mayor Glenn Witherspoon asked whether Ottawa would be able to match funds raised locally for the unit.

“I said he should help the people he represents. He should make an attempt to donate half-a-million dollars to the dialysis unit and I would do my part for hospital expansion,” Mayor Witherspoon recalled.

The $500,000 from the federal government would match the fundraising goal of $500,000 district aboriginal communities are hoping to raise.

And they’re taking the commitment Nault made at the BIA luncheon here very seriously.

“We were at the BIA lunch on Friday and Mayor Witherspoon asked Nault if we could expect government support and after a few words Nault pledged $500,000,” Rainy River First Nations Chief Jim Leonard said.

“He announced it publicly. I don’t know that it can be any more official than that,” he added.

First Nations communities already have raised $410,000 for the unit, which will cost an estimated $1 million.

“The first $410,000 has come through the support of the aboriginal community,” said Chief Leonard. “Support has just been tremendous.”

There’s a lot of interest in acquiring a dialysis unit in Fort Frances given patients now have to travel to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg for treatment.

“I think it’s of the utmost importance,” Chief Leonard stressed. “There are people in the area who are travelling to Thunder Bay three times a week. People shouldn’t have to do that, it should be close to home.”

With the promise of federal funding, Chief Leonard said he and Mayor Witherspoon would meet with Ontario Ministry of Health reps to ensure the annual operating costs of the new unit (about $500,000) will be met.

“We’ll need that commitment. There is no use in buying that machine if we can’t cover the operating costs,” he admitted.

Meanwhile, Mayor Witherspoon said he would ask town council to contribute $500,000 towards the fundraising efforts for Phase IV of renovations at La Verendrye if Ottawa came through with the money for the dialysis unit.

“I would definitely push that,” he vowed. “I think we can make that commitment.”

The $500,000 contribution from the town would be part of the roughly $3.5 million the district will be required to raise. That will cover the costs of renovations at La Verendrye along with part of $4.8 million in provincial funding which is to be divided between Emo and La Verendrye.

“I have to thank Mayor Witherspoon for his support,” said Chief Leonard. “It’s a co-operation of the whole district. We’re not doing this just for the aboriginal community, we’re doing it for the whole district.”

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