Beyond Bricks and Mortar

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Beyond Bricks and Mortar

MS Hospital Foundation tasked with fundraising for key health care priorities in an expanding community

The Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation, under the direction of  CEO Suzette Strong (inset),  raises from $5-6 million annually, which is applied towards a Hospital wish list for equipment, programs and health care updates totaling from $15-20 million.

Photo Credit: Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation Photos

By Bruce Stapley, Stouffville Free Press

Suzette Strong could be forgiven for thinking that the harder she tries, the further she gets behind.

That’s because for Ms Strong and the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation she serves as Chief Executive Officer, runaway population growth and ever changing health care requirements represent a fund raising challenge of epic proportions for her organization.

“Markham-Stouffville Hospital was built to serve the needs of a community that numbered 110,000 people when it was completed in 1990. By 2016 that number had grown to 400,000,” said Ms. Strong, who came on board as CEO in 2007 to set up a fundraising initiative that would help the hospital keep up with the steep demands being placed upon it.

The numbers are daunting. In a single year, the facility treats over 337,000 patients including 93,000 emergency patients; performs over 1.6 million diagnostic and lab tests; welcomes 3,100 newborns; completes over 21,800 surgical procedures. Currently over 450 physicians, 16 midwives, 2,100 staff and 1,300 volunteers look after the needs of the rapidly growing, increasingly diverse communities of Markham, Stouffville and Uxbridge.

“The mission of the Foundation is to provide the funding to enable Markham Stouffville Hospital to deliver excellent patient care,” said Ms Strong. She pointed to the little known reality that hospitals are responsible for raising much of the money beyond that required to build the physical structure. “The challenge I have is that many people don’t understand that government funding doesn’t cover everything in a hospital, it mainly pays for the bricks and mortar. Every year I am given a wish list of priorities totalling $15-20 million. The Foundation now raises $5-6 million a year. When I started in 2007 we were raising about $1 million a year.”

The hospital expansion project that began in 2008 and was completed in 2014 added 350,000 square feet and 100 beds, along with additional capacity in diagnostic services and clinical programs. The Foundation raised $56 million towards the endeavour.

An array of high level events held throughout the year accounts for 30-40% of funds raised by the Foundation. A Disco Ball held last May garnered over $500,000 to help expand one of the hospital’s key priorities, an Interventional Radiology Suite. The Foundation’s 33rd Annual Golf Tournament in August raised another $225,000 for equipment for the hospital. Other successful events and fundraisers included the SHOPPERS.LOVE.YOU. Run for Unionville Women, the Raffle of Hope, the Breast Health Celebration, the 7th Annual CIBC Night at the Races and the Buy a Bear Program. Stouffville events included the Fire and Emergency Services ‘Care to Wear Pink’, the Stouffville Pharmasave Charity BBQ and the Tim Horton’s Smile Cookie Campaign.

Ms Strong says the purpose of these events is two fold. “They raise money, but even more important is to raise awareness. It gives us a chance to get the message out about the needs of the hospital, about how important their donations are, plus how every single dollar counts. If it’s  $100 a year, or $10 a month or whatever it is, we can communicate with our donors directly to tell them  the massive  impact their gift has.” That in person contact usually results in donors adopting the hospital as a pet cause to support. “Once they are connected to us personally, they stay with us.”

Monies raised from donations over the past two years went towards needs including the hospital’s adult diabetes clinic, Emergency Department equipment, cancer care visits, comfort for patients and a Yoga and Music Therapy for students enrolled in the hospital’s Mental Health  ATLAS day program. Another key priority is to equip a much needed operating room to make it serviceable. “The only way we are going to get this OR operational is to raise $3 million,” said Ms Strong. A group of committed hospital supporters hope to put a big dent in that total with funds raised from an adventure trek to Mount Everest’s Base Camp next spring.

With 80,000 registered charities out for a share of the $1.2 billion donated annually, Ms. Strong feels a hospital should be front and centre for community residents. “All these charities are important, but at some point in your life this hospital will become important for you.”

She is quick to heap praise on the Markham Stouffville area for the way residents have embraced the hospital. “This community has always been very passionate about their hospital going back to when Arthur Latcham donated the 52 acres in 1967 that would eventually contain it.” She points with pride to the increasing number of bequests that have come in to the Foundation in recent years. “The generation that was responsible for having this hospital built are looking after it when they die.”

Ms Strong said the fact the  hospital is embarking on a new era of how it delivers healthcare for its patients makes fundraising more important than ever. “As the capacity of our hospital grows, so do our ongoing needs. The community usually comes through for us. We need them to help us continue enabling the hospital.”

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