More than 250 people were on hand Thursday for the grand opening of the Phase IV renovations at La Verendrye Hospital here.
“It’s been a long haul, but well worth the effort and the wait,” said John McTaggart, chair of the “Care Close to Home” campaign, which was launched in 2000 and ended up raising more than $3.5 million for the renovations.
McTaggart recalled when a “dream team” was assembled more than six years ago to organize a campaign that began with a district-wide “stretcher push” and ended up reaching its lofty goal after numerous successful fundraisers.
“Today, we have modern and accessible care close to home,” he remarked.
Thursday’s ceremony also officially marked the end of the “Care Close to Home” campaign. As such, McTaggart was presented with the large “Care Close to Home’’ banner that used to hang outside La Verendrye Hospital.
McTaggart was among the long list of dignitaries who spoke at the ceremony, which was held outdoors in front of the hospital.
Robin Wright, who chairs the board of Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., thanked the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care for its commitment to health care in Northwestern Ontario.
He also acknowledged the past and present Riverside board members and hospital staff for all their hard work prior to, and during, the Phase IV renovations.
Riverside CEO Wayne Woods agreed the board and staff deserved credit, as did LM Architectural Group and Penn-Co Construction Canada Ltd.
And the end result of all the work on the hospital speaks for itself, added Woods. “The quality is next to none,” he remarked. “There is nothing better.”
Larry Cousineau, chair of the board of the Riverside Foundation for Health Care, noted the Foundation transferred $1.5 million to Riverside this year to complete its commitment to the Phase IV project.
He said the success of the “Care Close to Home” campaign, which raised more than $3.5 million for the hospital renovations, was made possible through the hard work of the three district hospital auxiliaries, the Foundation’s special events committee, and numerous other volunteers.
“We’re extremely pleased with, and proud of, our new facility,” said Foundation director Teresa Hazel, who emceed the grand opening.
She noted the number of people attending the opening was a positive sign of community support.
Other speakers Thursday included Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff, Ontario NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton, and Janis Yahn, hospital consultant for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, who also delivered a message from Health minister George Smitherman.
The opening ceremony concluded with a ribbon-cutting, which was followed by tours of the renovated areas led by various hospital staff, as well as lunch and refreshments for everyone.
The Phase IV renovations include state-of-the-art operating rooms and a new emergency department, as well as renovated areas for the renal dialysis unit, laboratory, diagnostic imaging department, day surgery, and the sterile processing and distribution department.
The Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., and residents from across Rainy River District funded the $12.2-million project, which got underway in April, 2004.
Cousineau also announced Thursday that since the “Care Close to Home” campaign has wrapped up, the Foundation will be launching a new campaign later this summer to raise money for a CT scan here.
He expects it to be a brief yet intense drive to raise $1.5 million by January.
While details still are being worked on, Cousineau said he knows the campaign will be spearheaded by former Fort Frances mayor and councillor Deane Cunningham.
Cousineau added the need for such a device in the district is great, eliminating people’s need to travel far for a diagnosis—something especially important in medical cases where saving time could save lives.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)