Health department funds fundraisers

The Yukon wants to spend $22 million on state-of-the-art medical technology. But it needs a little help from its friends.

The Yukon wants to spend $22 million on state-of-the-art medical technology.

But it needs a little help from its friends.

Health and Social Services plans to contribute $17 million over five years, from federal and territorial coffers, for advanced hospital equipment, including a magnetic resonance imaging machine worth $2 million and a $6-million electronic health record to track Yukoners’ prescriptions and operations.

So to make up the remaining $5 million needed for the six projects listed as part of the Under the Wing campaign, the department will fund the Yukon Hospital Foundation with $225,000 — $75,000 each year for three years — so the foundation can focus on raising money.

The foundation hopes to raise $5 million over five years.

“We are actually fortunate, in the Yukon, that we have to rely to a lesser extent than most jurisdictions do on this type of fundraising campaign,” Health minister Brad Cathers said Monday.

“What it does, in essence, is the government having limited budgets, the donations of individuals and the efforts of volunteers help us buy new equipment quicker than we would otherwise be able to do it.”

The campaign is aimed at helping the Health department pay the escalating costs of medical services that patients would otherwise have to travel Outside to receive, he said.

The $22 million is a “basic” amount, and the funding commitment will likely increase, added Cathers.

“There will probably be additional things that come up. That’s the nature of health care.”

The campaign seeks to raise $5 million over the next five years.

Established in September 2005, Under the Wing piggybacks on previous fundraisers, such as the Northwestel Festival of Trees and the two-year Close to our Hearts campaign, which raised $650,000 for cardiac care equipment by 2005.

“A substantial amount — 20 per cent — of all donations across Canada go to health care,” said hospital foundation chair Keith Byrom, proprietor of Pelly Construction Ltd.

“The Yukon is not unique,” said Byrom.

“Health care is becoming such a huge thing that we can’t depend just on government taking care of it.

“Government and corporations and everyone has to sort of pitch in an help, because our health care costs are getting so high.”

The government’s new $225,000 commitment will pay the salary of Under Our Wing co-ordinator Vanessa Innes, added Byrom.

“It’s a pretty darn good investment, when you consider you’re covering our operating costs for $75,000 for the year.

“One hundred per cent of the money that we raise will go to the purchase of equipment, so it’s a return on your money of about 1,500 per cent.”

Individuals and corporations that donate to the hospital foundation won’t be allowed to put logos on the equipment they help purchase.

But they will be invited to officially attach their names to parts of hospital buildings.

Cathers is not worried about increasing reliance on donations from corporations and private individuals to make improvements to Yukon health care.

The government has increased its annual grant to the hospital from $20 million to $25 million, and promised $10 million in capital investment, he said.

“At some point the argument comes in: do you raise taxes to pay for more equipment, or do you allow people of their own volition to decide whether they wish to contribute towards health care or the environment or whatever their cause is?”

Several Whitehorse-based companies contributed substantially to fundraising campaigns last year, said Byrom.

“I would far rather donate a lump sum of money to something when I know what it’s being spent for, than have my taxes increased.”

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