Crowd lauds Phase IV expansion at hospital

FORT FRANCES—More than 350 people came out to the grand opening of the Phase IV expansion at La Verendrye Hospital here last Thursday, and the consensus seemed to be that district residents are impressed with the end result of the $12.2-million project.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Mary Chittock. “District residents are very lucky to have a hospital like this. Of course, they contributed.”
Chittock, like many others attending the grand opening, took a guided tour of the renovated areas of the hospital, including state-of-the-art operating rooms and a new emergency department, chapel, renal dialysis unit, laboratory, diagnostic imaging department, day surgery, and sterile processing and distribution department.
Chittock said she was very impressed with what she saw—a vast improvement from when she worked there as a nurse for 22 years.
“We’re lucky, living in a smaller place, to have a hospital like his,” echoed Jill Kellar, who, along with Chittock, said her favourite part of the renovated areas were the operating rooms.
Kellar added that while some people in southern Ontario may seem to think “we have sled dogs” up here in the north, the renovated La Verendrye Hospital is comparable to anything they have in London, Ont., for example.
“I think it’s absolutely super,” enthused Nell Laur as she enjoyed refreshments outside the hospital after taking a tour.
“It’s wonderful. I’m almost speechless,” added Laur, who used to be head of the X-ray department here. She all the hospital needs now is a CT scan.
“It’s bright and cheerful,” agreed June Keddie, who volunteers at the day hospital here. She added the chemotherapy department is “much better” after the Phase IV renovations.
Keddie said she also found the district support of the Phase IV renovations to be “mind-boggling.”
Hospital staff, who were consulted during the planning stages to provide input as to what changes would work best for them, also were positive in their comments about the renovated departments.
“It truly is a joy to work here,” remarked RN Marna Martin as she conducted a tour of the state-of-the-art operating room.
Similar statements were made by ER nurse Marie Saunders and Patti Johnson, manager of diagnostic services, who were part of the tour.
< *c>Opening ceremony
Thursday’s celebration began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring numerous delegates, all of whom applauded the efforts that went into making the renovations a reality.
“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 project.
McTaggart recalled 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.
The 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 which 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.
Riverside board chair Robin Wright thanked the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for its commitment to health care in Northwestern Ontario, and 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 echoed the sentiment that 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, added Woods, speaks for itself. “The quality is next to none,” he remarked. “There is nothing better.”
Woods said special credit can be given to project manager Ed Cousineau.
“Ed can be damn proud of the job he did. He went well above the call of duty,” Woods noted, adding the recently-retired Liz Clark also helped Woods carry out administrative duties while he spent much of his time getting the Phase IV plans approved by the Ministry.
And Woods thanked the district residents for their support of the “Care Close to Home” campaign. “This is your building. We hope we did a good job for you,” he said.
Larry Cousineau, who chairs 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 special events committee, and numerous other volunteers.
And he said Ed Cousineau, Woods, and the rest of the hospital staff should be applauded for their work during the renovations.
“We’re extremely pleased with, and proud of, our new facility,” echoed Foundation director Teresa Hazel, who emceed the grand opening.
She noted afterwards the number of people who attended the opening was a positive sign of community support.
“When you think of community, that is what is exemplified here,” said Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff, who was impressed with district residents’ dedication of time and money to make the renovations a reality.
Ontario NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton noted the newly-renovated, state-of-the-art departments reflected the changing face of health care, in which the public gets access to a wide range of health care services.
He thanked the hospital board and staff for all their hard work—first in making the renovations happen, and then in working around the construction for two years without compromising the provision of health care to district residents.
Hampton added the whole district should be applauded for its commitment of time and money. “We should all be proud of this,” he said. “It’s all been worth it.”
Hampton said the renovations bring La Verendrye Hospital up to “the frontline” of health care facilities in Ontario. “All communities in the Rainy River District are going to be fairly advanced in terms of what we can do in health care,” he noted.
Janis Yahn, hospital consultant for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, said the services in the renovated facility “will provide enhanced care closer to home.”
She also delivered a message from Health minister George Smitherman, who called the hospital renovations “a cause for celebration” that will translate into “better access and reduced wait times” for district residents.
Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk, acting as town representative and president of the Rainy River District Municipal Association, said the district municipalities should be acknowledged for committing more than $587,000 to the “Care Close to Home” campaign, as well as the numerous volunteers and donors who worked for years to raise the $3.5 million share.
The opening ceremony was followed by tours of the renovated areas, led by various hospital staff members, as well as lunch and refreshments for everyone.
The door prize—a barbecue donated by Cousineau Brokers—was won by Joyce Anderson-Dobson of Stratton.
In related news, Larry 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 are still 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 diagnosis—something especially important in medical cases where saving time could save lives.
(Fort Frances Times)