A breath of fresh air

Baffin Regional Hospital receives new pediatric ventilator



Tucked in the back corner of the lavender-walled newborn nursery in the Baffin Regional Hospital is a non-descript piece of equipment that could mean the difference between life and death for a baby.

Hanging from a small metal frame, this newly donated pediatric ventilator, with its small plastic tubes and dials, will breathe for babies when they can’t breathe on their own.

The hospital’s medical director, Dr. Sandy MacDonald, said the facility has two ventilators, but they are aging and, like any piece of machinery, require maintenance. The new one has arrived at “the perfect time.”

About six to 10 infants a year need to be hooked up to a ventilator, he said, but the equipment is an absolute necessity, or else the baby would have to be bagged by hand.

“This is a vital addition,” he said. “It rests [the babies’ lungs]. These are for critically ill children who are awaiting transfer down to the intensive care unit in Ottawa.”

The base price for a pediatric ventilator, without taxes or shipping, is about $11,000, but this equipment came in lieu of a corporate party.

Last year, the well-known real estate company Urbco Inc. was reorganized into Northern Property Real Estate Investment Trust. Its banker, Nesbitt Burns, raised more than $60 million for the company in an initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The vice-president of Nunavut Operations for Northern Property REIT, Kenn Harper, said it’s usual after a successful IPO for the company and its banker to hold a celebratory event, or party. Harper explained the company decided instead to split $25,000 between the two major communities where it does business — Iqaluit and Yellowknife.

Half the money was donated to the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation in Yellowknife, and in the absence of a hospital foundation here and with advice from staff at the Baffin Regional Hospital, the company purchased the pediatric ventilator.

Along with Harper and representatives of the hospital staff and administration, Health Minister Ed Picco stood leaning at one end of the newborn nursery while a brand-new baby boy had his diaper changed by a nurse at the other end.

“Most people are aware of the financial situation of the government and particularly in health and social services,” he said. With Nunavut having the highest birth rate in the country, it means the territory’s residents appreciate the equipment even more.

The upcoming expansion of the Baffin Regional Hospital could mean more revenue possibilities for the facility, Picco said, especially if a hospital foundation, such as the one in Yellowknife, can be formed to offer tax credits to corporations and individuals who wish to donate.

“There was some opportunity for a hospital foundation a few years ago when we had the health board in place,” Picco said, but administrative and logistical problems stalled the effort.

“It really didn’t get off the ground, and that’s something we would look to do with our new hospital structure that should start in earnest this summer and fall with site and lot work,” he said. “I would suggest to you that over the next six to 16 months, it’s something that we would like to have put in place.”

Picco said such a foundation could be set up in unison with the government, but would operate so that any funds brought in would go only to hospital services.

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