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A COVID-19 Reflection from HSC Foundation President and CEO, Jonathon Lyon

March 21, 2020

Philanthropy helps to keep health care nimble

By: Jonathon Lyon

As we were vacating our offices at the Health Sciences Centre Foundation a number of days ago, I was struck by the realization that in times of crisis, our health-care system needs the capacity to be nimble. And I was reminded of the impact our donors have in the pursuit and maintenance of excellence at Health Sciences Centre, Manitoba’s largest hospital.

All year long, every day, we raise money to purchase new medical equipment for HSC, renovate spaces, support research and much more. Yes, it is the government’s responsibility to fund health care, but it is philanthropy that allows additional and special initiatives to move forward. These are the types of projects that typically create new efficiencies and lead to even better care for all Manitobans.

The evolving COVID-19 crisis shines a bright light on how donations from individuals and businesses can make a difference in the provision of health care to all Manitobans. Thanks to money already raised by our foundation for HSC’s Diagnostic Centre of Excellence, we were able last week to fast-track the purchase of new diagnostic equipment that the hospital can use for advanced COVID-19 testing as the pandemic intensifies in Manitoba.

Our current major fundraising initiatives were launched many months ago, before any of us had even heard of COVID-19, but as I look at them through the lens of the current crisis, I see how everything we do is unquestionably interconnected.

For example, HSC is planning to expand and reorganize Manitoba’s busiest emergency department, which will make the hospital more nimble to address everyday emergency needs and community crises alike for the long term. This expansion will be made possible through the development of the new Manitoba Urologic Centre, for which we have been raising funds for several months.

As this COVID-19 crisis evolves, I am confident that HSC will be ready to provide optimal care to those who need it.

The centre will provide better and more timely care for Manitobans dealing with kidney, bladder, prostate and other urologic issues. And because the plan centres on redeveloping existing facilities, more space will be made available for emergency care.

Another example is an initiative our donors are supporting that will keep more hospital beds open for patients with acute health-care needs. In partnership with the University of Manitoba, we are raising funds for an innovative body of work known as “ambient assisted living,” which is the idea of using computer technology, artificial intelligence and other technologies to keep older patients with certain degrees of dementia safe, functional and as independent as possible, for as long as possible, in their own homes.

Once fully operational, ambient assisted living will mean better care for these patients, and it will enable the hospital to offer more timely care for people with acute medical needs. The technology can be used to help patients remotely, and it will therefore help HSC become even more nimble.

There’s that word again: nimble.

At the foundation, we see our colleagues at HSC as heroes and partners. They are passionate, flexible, level-headed experts who care deeply about implementing best practices in the provision of care to Manitobans. We are proud to do our part and we are moved by the generosity of our donors, lottery ticket buyers, corporate sponsors and others who show their support.

As this crisis evolves, I am confident HSC will be ready to provide optimal care to those who need it.

I am equally confident our foundation’s staff and our volunteer board will continue to excel in the face of this unprecedented challenge.

I am especially confident that our supporters will continue to step forward with passion and enthusiasm — as they always have — to keep HSC and the entire health-care system strong.

The crisis is reminding us all how interconnected all pieces of the health-care system are. And it’s reminding us all how interconnected we are as Manitobans.

By taking care of ourselves, our families and our communities through acts of kindness and philanthropy, we will persevere. We are generous. We are resilient.

Jonathon Lyon is president and chief executive officer of the Health Sciences Centre Foundation, hscfoundation.mb.ca.

As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on March 21, 2020.