Crew members wrap up some work at the West Coast General Hospital emergency department construction site on April 21, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Crew members wrap up some work at the West Coast General Hospital emergency department construction site on April 21, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

West Coast General Hospital Foundation surpasses $2-million fundraising goal

Emergency department expansion challenge reaches target 10 months early

The West Coast General Hospital Foundation has blown past its fundraising goal for the hospital emergency department expansion, almost a year ahead of schedule.

When Island Health announced in January 2021 plans for an expanded emergency department at Port Alberni’s hospital, the foundation board committed to raising $2 million toward the total cost; they estimated it would take two years.

As of April 2022, the foundation has raised $2.4 million, 10 months ahead of schedule.

“The foundation is deeply grateful for the incredible generosity and financial support from the community,” explains WCGH Foundation president, Dr. Robert O’Dwyer. “It is just showing us again that Port Alberni really is a town with a big heart.”

Some of the funds were raised through the “Emergency Challenge,” which saw businesses, service organizations and individuals challenge each other to donate the same amount or more than they did. There were large donations too, such as a $200,000 donation from Khalsa Diwan Society, $450,000 from the estate of Marilyn Horton, a longtime Alberni Valley volunteer, and more.

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Most of the donations came from individuals, groups, and businesses in the Alberni Valley, but the foundation did receive some donations from other regions. O’Dwyer says that is a reflection of who accesses WCGH, as most patients are local, but they also see people from West Coast communities, as well as Parksville and Qualicum.

Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne called the hospital “a truly regional facility that serves people in communities well beyond the Alberni Valley.”

The $2.4 million from the foundation will be put toward the estimated $6.25-million cost of the expansion, said Chris Francey, WCGH Foundation spokesperson. “With the extra costs that have happened because of transportation and floods and COVID-19, and the price of concrete (going) up…that extra $400,000 will make sure there’s no cutting any corners.”

The remaining cost of the project is being shared between the province ($2.55 million) and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Hospital District ($1.7 million).

READ: $6.2M expansion at West Coast General Hospital brings improvement to patient care

O’Dwyer says the project is essential in order to offer a higher quality of care to an aging and growing population. “The volume of patients we are seeing has gone up much more than projected,” he says. “The upgrades will accommodate growth while allowing us to improve the efficiency and quality of the care we offer patients and their families.”

The new emergency department will feature two separate entrances to offer additional privacy for patients, while a secure room will support patients with mental health challenges. The addition of the seclusion room will make the whole emergency department safer for patients waiting to be treated. All of these improvements will improve the experience for staff and patients.

Provincial health minister Adrian Dix applauded the WCGH Foundation for their fundraising feat. “Congratulations to the foundation for their hard work to raise funds for the renovations and expansion, and the community for supporting their fundraising efforts,” Dix said in a statement.

“When we announced the upgrades to the hospital in 2021, we recognized how well the hospital has served the community, and acknowledged that it’s time for a refresh, so we can continue to provide high-level patient care in Port Alberni and surrounding area.”

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