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Health chair extols donors, while highlighting medical advances

By Don Fennell

Published 10:36 PDT, Wed October 2, 2019

While Richmond Hospital Foundation took time to honour many donors at its annual Community Cares Celebration last week, the board chair of Vancouver Coastal Health spoke encouragingly of the advances in healthcare.

“As we are working together to bring some new life to Richmond Hospital and your new pilot project, I reflect how things have changed,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, board chair of Vancouver Coastal Health.

Having spent 45 years in healthcare, Ballem was trained as a blood doctor and started her medical career in the 1970s treating leukemia patients. By 1985, the first bone marrow transplant in B.C. was successfully completed.

“In those days 100 days in hospital was standard,” she said. “Nowadays, you can be home in two or three weeks or less.”

She also referred to the advances in cataract surgery, which has gone from a patient spending five or six days in hospital to now potentially being a five-minute procedure.

“And for anyone who remembers what is was like to have a heart valve replaced, (previously) a life-threatening procedure, now can be done by putting a little fibre into an artery. It is miraculous to think about the changes over my career.”

“As (healthcare) providers, it is so exciting to change the outcomes of people’s lives with all the advances we have,” Ballem said. “And, as we look at rejuvenating the capital structure we have across this country, it’s important we look at the curve of change and understand what it is and what healthcare is going to be looking at in five, 10, 20 years. For the board of Vancouver Coastal Health, replacement of the north tower (at Richmond Hospital) is a high priority. We want to make sure it is a building for the future and (offers) the kinds of opportunities and innovations that Richmond Hospital is going to want to have to serve you. The community needs to be forward looking, and to respond to the incredible growth you are having in your community. Richmond is bound to grow by 23 per cent by 2030. And over 10 years the senior population is going go up by 120 per cent. We are aging, but at the same time we also have higher expectations of what we are going to be able to do as we age and what our health care is going to be able to do for us.”

Ballem said the generosity of donors in Richmond inspires all of us. She said it is part of a “healing process” to have a community that shows it cares enough to contribute.”

September was Richmond Hospital Foundation’s Community Cares Month, uniting our diverse community to inspire support for an important cause—to ensure local health care is here when needed, now and in the future.

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