Health

Canadian hospitals join fundraising efforts to close COVID-19 'gaps'

Canadian hospitals facing urgent COVID-19 needs are banding together to close funding "gaps" for their institutions and embattled health-care workers.

Lead corporate partners promise $8.5 million of $50-million goal

Health-care workers put on personal protective equipment before testing at a drive-thru COVID-19 assessment centre. Hospitals across Canada that are facing urgent COVID-19 needs are banding together to close funding gaps. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Canadian hospitals facing urgent COVID-19 needs are banding together to close funding "gaps" for their institutions and embattled health-care workers.

Dubbed The Frontline Fund, the national campaign seeks donations on behalf of more than 100 institutions across the country for supplies, staff support and research.

Organizers say the money would help hospitals source personal protective equipment and ventilators, fund drug trials and vaccine research and provide mental-health support to exhausted staff. Ten per cent of funds will also go toward the northern territories and Indigenous health.

Steering committee member Caroline Riseboro, also CEO of the Trillium Health Partners Foundation, said COVID-19 has raised unique needs that "wouldn't necessarily be addressed through government funding."

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Examples of how the money could be spent include extra scrubs so caregivers can change their clothes before going home or hotel rooms for front-line staff with immune-compromised relatives so they don't have to fear bringing the virus home with them.

The three main ways relief will be distributed are:

  • Supplies: From personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, disinfectants and disposable clothing to life-saving ventilators and testing equipment to the digital infrastructure needed to enable virtual patient care, front-line health-care workers need more tools. 
  • Supports: Being directly involved in patient care in a pandemic takes a huge toll. Gift cards and peer-to-peer mental health support will also help health-care workers protect their families, get much-needed rest and prepare themselves for the effort ahead. 
  • Research: Hospitals need funding to conduct vital research like clinical drug trials to discover therapeutic breakthroughs and intense vaccine development efforts.

Organizers say $8.5 million has already been promised by lead corporate partners. That includes $5 million from the Canadian Medical Association Foundation, $2.5 million from Maple Leaf Foods and $1 million from TD Bank Group.

'Unprecedented crisis'

The goal is to raise $50 million. Canadians can donate at www.frontlinefund.ca.

"All of our hospitals in Canada are just facing an unprecedented crisis here," Riseboro said.

"We know that there's the desire out there by Canadians to help, but Canadians are unsure of who to support so we created this national initiative. It is historic in nature. Never have all of these hospitals across the country come together to fundraise in concert for what is probably one of the most significant health crises facing us in a generation."

Money will stay within the province in which it is donated and be allocated according to the number of beds at each institution. Each hospital foundation will decide how to spend the funds on its unique needs, said Riseboro.

A health-care worker is seen outside the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital on March 30. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

"This initiative is really meant to close some gaps on the response to COVID, particularly when it comes to our front-line health-care workers."

The CMA Foundation said its $5-million contribution to the Frontline Fund is part of a broader $20-million commitment to the medical system.

It's also setting up a $5-million fund to benefit community hospitals and giving another $5 million to a COVID-19 grant program by the Foundation for Advancing Family Medicine.

Another $5 million will help medical students and residents with financial hardships, and $250,000 will go to Doctors without Borders' COVID-19 crisis fund.

With files from CBC News

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