VHF Donation Seaspan
(from L-R: Dr. Omar Ahmad, Avery Brohman, Joe O'Rourke, photo courtesy Victoria Hospitals Foundation)

The Victoria Hospitals Foundation (VHF) took a major step towards funding a new critical care unit thanks to a large gift announced on Tuesday.

Seaspan Victoria Shipyards and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation jointly contributed $2.65 million to the VHF for the ‘It’s Critical’ campaign, which was launched in April to respond to critical COVID-19 needs.

The gift brings VHF one step closer to building Vancouver Island’s first permanent High Acuity Unit (HAU), a specialized facility that serves as an intermediary step between Intensive Care and Acute Care.

“When we heard that Vancouver Island was the only health region in the province without this kind of unit we knew we had to act, especially considering the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having in our communities,” said Joe O’Rourke, Vice President and General Manager of Seaspan Victoria Shipyards.

Health experts say that this facility is vital to saving lives, especially when health care systems are strained by emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To put it simply: we need more beds to keep up with the growing critical care demand,” said Dr. Omar Ahmad, Department Head of Emergency & Critical Care Medicine for Island Health, at a press conference on Tuesday.

The HAU will provide eight beds for patients recovering from surgery, severe respiratory distress, or being treated for other serious medical conditions.

Dr. Ahmad says that the HAU would also allow for very close monitoring for these patients, keeping them off of more invasive recovery methods.

“The idea is that sometimes by having this extra vigilance and extra care for these patients, they can avoid actually going on to mechanical ventilation because of the heightened observation by nursing staff and respiratory therapists.”

In addition to the $2.65 million gift, the It’s Critical campaign has raised $1.9 million from over 2,300 donors, springing past the halfway point of its $7 million goal.

“Right now, we’re very mindful of how many businesses and community members can donate,” Avery Brohman, Executive Director of VHF said. “The generosity that Seaspan has given us allows us to propel that movement forward.”

Brohman added that it will take time after the campaign reaches its goal to determine the appropriate location for the care unit.

She says that the sooner the campaign is funded, the quicker the Island can see its first permanent HAU.

“I would love to see this campaign close in the next few months but we won’t stop our work until it’s over.”

Information on the It’s Critical campaign, including online donations, is available on the Victoria Hospitals Foundation website.