By Steve Hubrecht

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The Invermere Health Care Auxiliary (IHCA) gave a large donation to the East Kootenay Foundation for Health (EKFH) last week.

The IHCA presented a $320,000 cheque to the EKFH on Thursday, Nov. 30 outside the Invermere Thrift Store. The nonprofit IHCA runs the thrift store to help raise funds for health care in the East Kootenay.

Of the $320,000 total, $200,000 is going to the Warm Embrace campaign, which aims to raise $1.8 million to build a tier three neonatal intensive care unit at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital (EKRH) in Cranbrook. The other $120,000 will help fund much needed equipment in the Invermere hospital, Golden hospital, and at Columbia House.

IHCA president Corinne Tansowny explained to the Pioneer that as there is no intensive care unit for babies in the East Kootenay, it makes a lot of sense for the IHCA to donate to the Warm Embrace campaign. Any East Kootenay infants (and their parents) needing intensive care get sent to Kelowna, Kamloops or Vancouver, she explained. 

Tansowny relayed the experience of one East Kootenay couple that were sent to Vancouver for intensive neonatal care. Upon arrival they received a 100-day parking pass. “Their reaction was ‘oh my gosh, are we going to be living here in Vancouver for 100 days?’” She noted that “it really is quite an ordeal. It’s a lot of stress and a lot of financial strain for families. It would very much benefit Columbia Valley residents to have a neonatal intensive care unit in Cranbrook.”

Many local expectant mothers deliver their babies here in Invermere, but because the hospital here does not have an operating room, many also choose to deliver in Cranbrook.

The other $120,000 for the Invermere and Golden hospitals will help to pay for programs, such as home health that see medical staff visit seniors in their homes, as well as for materials and equipment such as stretchers, maternity recliners, hospital beds, patient warming systems, a bladder scanner and operating room equipment.

The IHCA also donated $45,000 to the Invermere and Golden hospitals this past spring, and funds $20,000 in scholarships related to medicine. Half the scholarship money goes to graduating David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) students interested in studying medical programs, and the other half goes to students from the Columbia Valley who are already in post secondary study to become doctors, nurses or other health care professionals.

“That money could end up benefitting the valley, as those students may choose to come back home and spend part of their medical career here in the valley,” said Tansowny.