NOTL Hospital Auxiliary ‘had good run’ of 95 years
Laurie Harley and Dena Broeders relax over coffee at the community centre and talk about the dissolution of the 95-year-old NOTL Hospital Auxiliary. Penny Coles/Niagara Advance
After 95 years of service to the community, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital Auxiliary is being dissolved.
Its money, about $22,000, is being held in trust by the Niagara Health System, says Dena Broeders, who was vice-president of the auxiliary before it folded.
Laurie Harley, a past president and board member, and Broeders are still hopeful it might one day be resurrected to provide some kind of volunteer health care in the community, but those plans are on hold for now.
When its 95th anniversary was celebrated in January, members had three years of discussions about the future of the auxiliary behind them, knowing the hospital was slated to close. They were looking at options to continue their work, and were enthusiastic about adopting a new name and a new direction that would allow them to move forward, said Harley. But that was not to be.
Auxiliary members, once they knew they would have to re-invent themselves, applied for grant money they hoped would help them set up a network to offer “friendly visits” in seniors’ homes, says Harley, but were turned down.
Some members have joined the St. Catharines and Niagara Falls hospital auxiliaries, and others continue to provide some of the programs initiated by the auxiliary - chiefly a Lifeline service, which continues through a partnership with the NOTL Family Health Team, and the foot clinic that is still open in the basement of the hospital.
The auxiliary was allowed to hang on to 15 per cent of its funds, and donated it to Pleasant Manor, which is offering beds for short-term care to NOTL patients who need recovery time from treatment at one of the other NHS hospitals, before being sent home.
The stumbling block to the auxiliary continuing was the closure of the hospital, with no signs in sight of a health hub to serve the community.
The auxiliary was formed as a trust, to raise money for the hospital - the trustee - but without a hospital, lost its status as a charitable organization, and could no longer fundraise to support moving forward.
The money in trust was transferred to the NHS, and fortunately, the NHS agreed to set up another trust for that money, so that it could be held to be spent in NOTL, likely for a future health hub, said Broeders.
When the auxiliary began the process of dissolution, it worked with the NHS, following the course of the NOTL Hospital Foundation, which had considerably more money at stake, said Harley.
The foundation resisted joining the 2014 amalgamation of the six other Niagara hospital foundations that became One Foundation. The NOTL Foundation had $1.3 million put aside for local health care, including donations from the residents and accumulated interest. The money now set aside is less than that, says Brenda Jones, the foundation president - they purchased a bladder scan that is now used by the family health team, going back and forth between the hospital offices and the medical clinic in Virgil.
About $980,000 remains, to be spent on equipment or programs of the health hub, said Jones, who is now chair of the steering committee focusing on the next steps toward that health hub.
Meanwhile, auxiliary members have pledged to continue to meet once a month, and hope that will retain interest among members and keep them ready to move to the next step when the time is right.
Members have been very supportive, Harley said.
“Everyone felt sad, but also very accepting that it was the right thing to do. The legacy of the auxiliary is strong. Members are good at dealing with patients, and they know how to fundraise. At the end of the day, it’s the people who are important, and they haven’t gone away.”
Looking back, Harley said, “it was a great run. Our members contributed a lot to this town. As for the future, only time will tell. We’ll have to see how it goes.”