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Profiles of Excellence: Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation

The Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation has had one goal: to serve the needs of the hospital community
Jeff Norris, foundation president and CEO. Photo via Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation.

For more than 40 years, the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation has had one goal: to serve the needs of the hospital community. That’s a daunting task under normal circumstances. RCH is the only hospital in B.C. with trauma, cardiac, neurosciences, high-risk maternity and a neonatal intensive care all on one site, drawing thousands of patients from across the region and province.

But with an unprecedented global health crisis, the foundation was facing a sudden and unexpected challenge this year—one that they met with their hallmark dedication and commitment.

“In a typical year, we spend a lot of time working with donors and the hospital to coordinate on projects that may be years in the making,” says Jeff Norris, foundation president and CEO.

“But in the spring, the hospital had to shift gears very fast. So, we said: what can we do to help, not over months or years, but in a matter of days or weeks. We were suddenly working at a much higher level of urgency.”

Norris says they took their early cues from regions that were hit hard in the early stages of the pandemic.

“We could look at Italy, for example, where hospitals were overwhelmed and health care workers were struggling and then build ideas that would help us manage better here.”

This involved both practical tasks—for example, helping to quickly source donor PPE from the community as supplies ran short—but also developing supports for front-line workers.

“On the one hand, we were asking: what does the hospital need today, what can we get in terms of equipment or supplies today. On the other hand, the question was very much: how do we take care of our staff?”

The community response to both sides of that coin has been incredible, says Norris.

“We saw some amazing things this year. Traditional donors stepping up and making gifts. Quick turn-around on urgent expenditures, equipment that would help in our ICU. Cutting edge investments, like a germ-killing robot for sanitization. But then we also had incredible support for our people: local companies stepping up to provide meals for staff, free coffee coming in every day. We partnered with taxi companies and car companies to cover transportation when public transit was limited, local hotels that were able to provide a place for staff who couldn’t risk exposure to family at home.”

There were also efforts to help coordinate neighbourly help—like residents mowing lawns for health care staff working long hours at the hospital, or a call-out for unused baby monitors that could help staff working with COVID-19 patients.

Another key success was a program that allowed the public to send messages to hospital staff through the foundation’s website.

Norris says that there’s plenty of work still ahead as the hospital continues to tackle both the pandemic and the normal health-care needs of the community, and he invites anyone interested in supporting the foundation to reach out now and in the coming months.

“This year has really shown us what we can do when we pull together.”

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