Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran speaks at launch for $8 million Better Together fundraising campaign to build JoeAnna’s house. Photo Credit: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Column: JoeAnna’s House a worthy cause

Fundraising underway to construct facility where families can stay during crisis

News that the Kelowna Hospital Foundation is initiating a campaign to help construct the 20-room JoeAnna’s House, where families can stay together during a health-care crisis, is welcome indeed.

In all the shuffle of news last week and because it happened in Kelowna, this story may have escaped your notice. (Check out our story on page A17.) But it is incredibly important to people in this region.

One-in-four patients admitted to hospital in Kelowna are from outside that city — many of them from the Shuswap. And being in hospital so far from homes comes with a host of challenges, not only for the patient, but for their family.

It takes me back to my own situation just after the birth of my twins in the Kamloops hospital.

They were premature and needed to remain in their incubators in the neo-natal intensive care (NICU) nursery.

I, however, had no unusual physical aliments after their birth and, with hospital beds at a premium, I was kindly informed by the doctor that it was time for me to vacate the hospital.

I think the look of disbelief said it all.

“But where am I going to go?” I asked, as I teared up. “You just told me I have to be here every three hours around the clock to nurse my babies.”

A social worker was dispatched. She held my hand and kindly asked, “Do you have any friends in town you could stay with?”

No. Didn’t know anyone.

Another option suggested was for me to leave the babies in the nursery and commute from Salmon Arm whenever I could.

Ask any new mother if that is a good option when her fragile babies are in intensive care. It’s not.

The long stay in a Kamloops hotel ran up a credit-card bill into the thousands of dollars.

This is something that would be avoided had an option like JoeAnna’s House been available.

Health-care workers have all witnessed the stories of accommodation challenges people face.

“That is contrary to good health care. People recover better when they are together with family or loved ones and able to support each other,” Doug Rankmore, chief executive officer of the KGH Foundation said at the announcement of a fundraising campaign for this project. Rankmore is absolutely right.

I’m happy to point out the Huber family, who own the Prestige Hotel chain are getting behind this initiative. They have committed $1 million to the campaign and will be organizing fundraising initiatives in their hotels, including at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort in Salmon Arm.

While many people like to support local charities, it should be pointed out that, although the home will be built in Kelowna, this is a local cause. It will support people from the Shuswap who are going through some of the most difficult times they will ever face.

I hope this is a project our community can get behind.

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