The ballroom of Brookstreet Hotel was full this morning with the makers, the doers, the dreamers and the builders of our community, all helping to raise more than $323,000 for the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation at its Visionaries Breakfast.
“It’s so nice to put on ‘real people’ clothes and be back out,” QCH Foundation president and CEO Shannon Gorman said good-humouredly as she welcomed some 220 attendees to the non-profit organization’s first in-person fundraiser since the start of the pandemic.
These are hard times for health care. Hospitals have been dealing with significant challenges in such areas as health, human resources, capacity and funding, said Gorman, while adding that they’re seeing a “huge spike” in patients showing up to their emergency department in need of critical mental health services.
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The west-end hospital, which serves 50 per cent of Ottawa’s population, has one of the busiest emergency departments east of Toronto. The demand is not expected to let up anytime soon; our city’s current population of one million people is projected to rise by another 400,000 in the next 20 years.
The Ottawa population is also aging, a trend that’s expected to put further strain on the health-care system.
Each breakfast table was joined by a QCH health-care expert. Dr. Andrew Falconer, president and CEO of the hospital, took a moment to recognize the team at QCH for handling wave after wave of the pandemic – curveballs and all.
“We’ve been through some dark times in health care over the last three years but our staff come to work every day to make sure that our patients get excellent quality of care and the kind of compassionate care that we feel our community deserves,” said Falconer, who expressed pride in how QCH has been “so agile and innovative” in its response.
Highlights of the morning included a special tribute to the late Hank Mews, former owner and dealer principal of Myers Automotive Group, for his volunteer fundraising and leadership roles at the hospital. His transformative gift of $1 million helped to open the hospital’s Myers Automotive Acute Care of the Elderly (ACE) Unit in 2016. As the first of its kind in Eastern Ontario, the ACE Unit provides comfort and care to elderly patients dealing with complex medical concerns.
Mews’s four children, Beth, Barb, Harry and Rob, accepted the inaugural Visionary Award in honour of their dad, who passed away in October at age 85. Mews, who was originally from Newfoundland, believed that when it came to philanthropy, the amount didn’t matter; it was one’s participation on an ongoing basis that helps a community be a better place.
“To be honoured in this way is something he never would have expected but we know he would be so proud,” said Beth at the podium.
“Dad wore many hats in life and meant many things to many people. No matter the role he was in, whether it was dad or chair of a board, you were sure to know where he stood on matters. He was direct and held true to his beliefs, and we know this hospital meant a lot to him and that he believed in it deeply.”
Attendees also included QCH donor Barbara Crook, who, along with her husband, Dan Greenberg, financially contributed toward the opening of the new Barbara Crook and Dan Greenberg Mental Health Centre at QCH. The ongoing project was a community effort, with more than $6 million raised.
Also in attendance were QCH Foundation board chair Fred Seller, partner at Brazeau Seller Law, QCH board chair Atul Aggarwal, president and CEO of Marcan Pharmaceuticals, and retired Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips (who now works for the hockey club) and his wife, real estate agent Erin Phillips. They’re long-time supporters of QCH.
The Mews were not only given beautiful bouquets of flowers but also charcuterie boards made from an old oak that blew over at the hospital during last year’s major storm. The wooden boards were crafted and subsequently donated to QCH Foundation by a local woodworking specialist. He’d spotted the fallen tree, while his wife was at the hospital to have their baby, and later salvaged the wood in a way that would help the hospital.
Ryan Watson from Raising the Bid led a fund-a-need to help the hospital purchase critical medical devices and equipment. First to raise a paddle and donate $30,000 was Michael O’Brien on behalf of the Don and Shirley Green Family Foundation, quickly followed by the Mews family. QCH Foundation board members collectively donated $75,000 during the fund-a-need.
The breakfast was emceed by CTV News Ottawa anchor Matt Skube, who warmed hearts with his own personal QCH story. Its staff provided “remarkable” care and compassion to him and his wife when she suffered the first of two miscarriages. Fortunately, they’re now proud parents of two boys, ages four and two.
Skube also led the audience through a quick game that required tables to correctly match up a list of emergency situations with a list of emergency colour codes that we hope to never hear called over any loudspeaker in any hospital.