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Hospital auxiliary disbands after 121 years of service

November 25, 2015

MEDICINE HAT — The Medicine Hat Regional Hospital Auxiliary Association is disbanding after 121 years of making hospital stays a little brighter for patients and their families.

Auxiliary president Rita Thomas says the group made the difficult decision to disband due to aging membership and recruitment challenges.

“We can’t do the activities we used to because we don’t have the members,” says Thomas, who joined in 2010. “We can’t attract new members because we aren’t doing the activities.”

Originally called the Women’s Hospital Aid Society (WHAS), the group was created in 1894 to help raise funds to build the Nurses’ Residence, which opened in 1905.

In the decades that followed, auxiliary members supplied sheets, blankets and pillows for the hospital; hand-knitted baby items; and provided a library and mobile cart of reading material and confectionary items for patients.

The group was also involved in fundraising for hospital equipment, including patient beds, ultrasound equipment, portable defibrillators and microscopes.

“Our job was to provide those little extras for patients, comfort items that could improve their stay,” says 91-year-old Joyce Condon, who joined in 1986. “We raised funds through teas, raffles and lottery tickets. In 1986, we opened the Gift Shop and ran it until 2010. We created a Humour Room in 1991 for patients and families to visit and relax. And, in 1992, we opened a food service called the Hospitality Terrace. All proceeds went back into patient care.”

Membership peaked in 1908 with 546 women, but then began to decline until the group temporarily disbanded in 1932. After the Second World War, the group was revived and became the Ladies Auxiliary. The auxiliary continued to evolve and, in 1985, membership was opened to men and the group changed its name to the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital Auxiliary Association.

“Since the health foundation started tracking the auxiliary donations in 1998, this small but determined group of volunteers has raised more than $1 million for hospital equipment,” says Heather Bach, Executive Director of the Medicine Hat and District Health Foundation.

“That doesn’t include the donations and contributions before 1998, or the selfless hours volunteered over the last 121 years.”

Linda Iwasiw, Senior Operating Officer of Acute Care, East South Zone for Alberta Health Services, says auxiliary members are pioneers of patient-centred care.

“We’re thankful for everything they’ve done to enhance the patient experience,” says Iwasiw. “We’re grateful for the heartfelt dedication current and past members have shown.”

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Lisa Squires
AHS Communications
403-581-9036 (cell)