The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting a major challenge to the work of the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation, but the non-profit organization is continuing with efforts to raise funds for a new digital mammography unit at the Cypress Regional Hospital.
The Close to the Heart digital mammography campaign is still about $30,000 short of the goal of $350,000 to purchase and install this important piece of medical equipment at the regional hospital in Swift Current.
Carol Andrews, the Healthcare Foundation’s development officer and communications coordinator, appreciates the support from the community for the campaign since last year.
“We've been really lucky prior to the whole COVID-19 scenario that people from across the southwest has really stepped up and helped us with the Close to the Heart digital mammography campaign,” she said. “I can't say enough about individuals and various businesses who have helped us out.”
The pandemic already had an impact on the fundraising initiatives for the digital mammography campaign during March and April.
“We had a couple of big events planned, which we had to put on hold for now, and we do plan to reschedule, including the Taste of the Arts event in Shaunavon,” she said. “That one we already had over 100 tickets sold. A lot of people were excited about coming out for an evening of food and drink and supporting local chefs and breweries, and of course the NHL playoff hockey draft, which we had planned for the first week of April, was also put on hold. So that has really put us behind.”
The uncertainty created by the pandemic and the public health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection are causing a reduction in donations to the campaign.
“Things have definitely slowed down, because people have been holding money a little bit tighter, but there still have been some bigger cheques that have come through,” she noted. “It's that time of the year that people maybe have been working on their investment portfolios or it’s tax season. People give at different times of the year, and when a situation like this happens, there are also generous donors who want to continue to give. Foundations such as Dr. Noble Irwin are top of mind to a lot of people and they just continue to give, and we certainly appreciate those.”
The Healthcare Foundation office had been closed temporarily to the public due to the need for social distancing during the pandemic, but efforts continue to connect with potential donors.
“We're doing a lot of outreach to our donors, still keeping in contact with them through the media and one-on-one calls, letting them know that it's still business as usual,” she said. “We're trying some different avenues to still stay out there and be top of mind to our donors and partners across the region that this is a crucial piece of equipment, not only for women's health, but men's health as well, because there are cases of men's breast cancer as well. So that machine, being upgraded, is important to all residents of the southwest.”
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in Canada. One in eight women and one in 25 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Early diagnosis and accurate assessment of breast cancer ensures successful treatment for patients, leads to better therapies, and more successful outcomes for patients. The current mammography unit at the Cypress Regional Hospital is already making a crucial difference in early detection, but the new digital machine will incorporate 10 years of technological advances.
“The newest technology would be able to detect tumours and lesions in breasts even clearer and early detection, not only in breast cancer but in all types of cancer, means the treatment happens sooner and recovery rates are even higher,” she said. “So that's so important to the residents of southwest Saskatchewan, and we serve such a large area here of over 40,000 people that live in the southwest that this machine is so important to.”
The Close to the Heart digital mammography campaign is most likely the Healthcare Foundation’s largest fundraising campaign for a single piece of equipment. A successful kickoff breakfast took place in June 2019 in Swift Current that raised over $30,000. There have been many examples of community generosity during this campaign, despite the fact that the region has been facing some economic challenges due to low commodity prices even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 11th annual Pharmasave Radiothon for Healthcare at the end of October raised $155,832 for the campaign and 31 Hutterite colonies in the southwest supported the campaign with close to $100,000 in donations. Recent donations that helped to get closer to the campaign goal include the Cypress Regional Medical Association ($10,000), Kurt’s KFC ($1,000), and Edo Japan ($500).
Andrews said the Healthcare Foundation will continue to raise the remaining amount of about $30,000 for the digital mammography unit.
“Definitely we would like to have this money raised sooner than later, but we can't stop,” she emphasized. “2020 is probably one of the most challenging years for the Foundation and we hope that our partners will stick by us and help us through the best that they can.”
There are different options to make a donation to the Close to the Heart digital mammography campaign. Online donations can be made through the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation website at www.drirwinfoundation.com.
Donations can also be made by mail to the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation office at 2051 Saskatchewan Drive, Swift Current, Saskatchewan, S9H 0X6. For more information, call 306-778-3314.