Preparations for the 19th annual Hospital Gala are well underway, with organizers putting things in place to stun local residents and take them on a trip “To the Moon and Back.”
To date, the nearly two decades of annual galas has seen the Bonnyville Health Foundation raise over $1.9 million, which has been used to purchase a variety of valuable equipment for the local hospital.
This year, the goal for the Feb. 20 event is to raise funds to help re-establish gynecology and obstetrics services at the Bonnyville Covenant Health Centre.
This past summer saw the local hospital successfully recruit Dr. Marli Du Toit an obstetrician/gynecologist who was a professor in South Africa. The new doctor brings over the skills and experience to help re-establish the obstetrics department Bonnyville once had.
“We have an area, amongst (Bonnyville, Cold Lake and St. Paul), that was pretty much doing 1,000 deliveries a year with no specialist backup. The closest backup is (Edmonton) more than two hours away,” said Dr. Guy Lamoureux. “Now we have brought that skill and specialty here.”
Along with providing the tools to successfully bring in Du Toit, Covenant Health will also be investing just under $500,000 to renovate two new rooms for the gynecology and obstetrics department.
While the new rooms will help rebuild a department that Bonnyville once had, the local hospital has been left on their own to fund equipment for the new services.
“This is a huge step forward for us to be able to provide these services, and some of these are emergency services,” said Lamoureux. “We hope over the long run to be able to grow the program and be able to add a second obstetrician/ gynecologist.”
The funds raised at this year’s hospital gala will be going into this department, with the hope of purchasing a new $30,000 Colposcope.
“This is a critical piece of equipment in terms of checking for cancer of the cervix and monitoring treatment as well as even carrying out some of the treatment for it,” said Lamoureux.
Other smaller pieces of equipment are also needed to help re-build the service in Bonnyville. The amount of money raised at the gala will determine how many other pieces of equipment can be added to the department.
“There is a possibility of buying a smaller ultrasound unit that she wants to use in the clinic, but it is all dependant on the funds raised,” said hospital administrator Alex Smyl.
The crash of the local economy has resulted in a decrease in the funds being collected at the Hospital Gala’s over the past few years. In 2013 the “Medieval Knight” event saw the Bonnyville Hospital Foundation raise over $225,000. Last year’s “Distinctly Diamond” gala brought in over $205,000.
“In spite of the economy the support has been really good,” said Smyl. “We are extremely thankful to this community as everybody rallies behind the hospital, they always have.”
Over the past 12 months, the local hospital has conducted 570,135 lab procedures, had 24,957 emergency room visits, and carried out 15,146 x-ray exams. On top of 1,449 day-surgery visits and 215 inpatient surgeries, the hospital also carried out 35 knee or hip replacements and delivered 277 babies from Aug. 2014 to the end of July 31, 2015.
The community support in 2015 allowed the Bonnyville Health Foundation to purchase a life pack for the ambulance, adjustable sink, mini frag set, telemetry system, two hystoscopes, a medication chart, six stretches and two syringe pumps.
According to Smyl over half of the tables for this year’s gala have been spoken for, with organizers confident they will be able to sell out the rest.
The event will aslo feature a live auction, with the main items being a trip to Cuba, a extensive fishing trip and a wine tour of the Okanagan Valley.
Anyone interested in purchasing a ticket for the “To the Moon and Back” gala can contact the local hospital or organizer Vic Sadlowski at 780-207-4797.
“You will be quite stunned when you first walk in and you will be introduce to the rocket that brings you to the moon and back,” said Smyl.