It only took supporters of the Victoria Hospital Foundation (VHF) in Prince Albert six months to raise $2.2 million to help fund the expansion and advancement of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Victoria Hospital.
The VHF announced the completion of the NICU for the North campaign on February 14 in Prince Albert. Just a few weeks earlier, they had reached the $1.4 million-mark, thanks to many generous donations from the community, and a wildly successful radiothon on December 7, which raised more than $1 million in a single day. Then a local physician stepped up, and ensured the campaign reached its target two and a half years ahead of schedule.
Dr. Lalita Malhotra made a special donation of $800,000 in memory of her husband, the late Dr. Tilak Malhotra, to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion.
The Malhotras arrived in Prince Albert in 1975, when Dr. Tilak Malhotra became the first and only pediatrician in that community for nearly 20 years. Lalita and Tilak were the first maternal care and pediatric physician team in the north, and for nearly 42 years, they safeguarded the health of both mothers and their newborns in that part of Saskatchewan. Their impact was especially felt by young families in First Nations communities over the years.
“Health care has always been a priority for me and my family,” said Dr. Lalita Malhotra at the event on February 14. “As a physician, I know that having the highest quality care in our NICU is so important for building and sustaining our proud community now and in the future. Giving this donation means the world to my family and we will be so happy that our children are being cared for, right here in our community.”
Dr. Lalita Malhotra (left) with Lyle Karasiuk, Board Chair for the Victoria Hospital Foundation, at the announcement on February 14 in Prince Albert.
Victoria Hospital nurses surround Dr. Lalita Malhotra to show their gratitude to her and the Malhotra family for their large donation to the NICU in Prince Albert.
It is an immense achievement to have raised this amount of money in such a short time.
“Reaching this goal in just six months is both unprecedented and monumental,” says Sherry Buckler, Chief Executive Officer of the Victoria Hospital Foundation. “This is a very special community. They rallied together and raised 2.2 million in only six short months. I think it speaks to the deep rooted passion Saskatchewanians have for supporting healthcare as close to home as possible.”
Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert delivers 1,500 babies each year, and originally operated with a “well-baby” nursery – meaning it was sized and equipped for those babies who did not require any special medical care and who were healthy enough to room in with mom. However, the small nursery eventually began functioning as a Level 2 Neonatal Unit, stabilizing and caring for a growing number of sick and premature infants.
“The fact that the fundraising has been completed so quickly speaks to how much this community cares about providing this lifesaving care for newborns, right here at home,” says Carol Gregoryk, Executive Director Acute Care Northeast for Saskatchewan Health Authority. “The funds raised will make a better life for mothers, fathers, and babies, who need that specialized care. We will also have more room for other family members to come and visit. Once the changes are made, the new NICU will give everyone more appropriate space that is safer, private and more comfortable.”
The pediatric team in Prince Albert has the skills and training to care for medically fragile newborns and babies born as young as 32 weeks, which results in these infants arriving at Victoria Hospital.
Even with a new children’s hospital in Saskatoon opening later this year, Victoria Hospital will continue to play a critical role in supporting the Saskatoon and Regina NICUs.
Buckler quoted anthropologist and author Margaret Mead in her comments about the campaign, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
She continued, “We are very proud to serve this generous and supportive community, and are deeply appreciative to the Malhotra family and each person who helped make this NICU happen.”
Now that the fundraising has concluded, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Ministry of Health will be moving quickly into discussions regarding construction timelines, approvals and start dates.