Tree of Dreams sheds lights on hospital’s needs

Annual fundraising campaign for South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation begins today

Technician Jan Betts examines a sample in the Penticton Regional Hospital laboratory. The fifth annual Tree of Dreams fundraising campaign for the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation began Thursday.

Technician Jan Betts examines a sample in the Penticton Regional Hospital laboratory. The fifth annual Tree of Dreams fundraising campaign for the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation began Thursday.

Whether it’s a big donation or a small one, it all helps.

And when it comes to the annual Tree of Dreams campaign, Janice Perrino says they are going to need a lot of help. Perrino, the executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, said they need to raise $500,000 this year to purchase new diagnostic equipment for Penticton Regional Hospital.

“We’re trying to really put the push on now to bring in as much as we can,” she said. “The $25 ones just add up. It’s incredible.”

In all, the hospital staff has 15 items on their wish list: urgently needed cancer diagnostic equipment for the laboratory, the endoscopy clinic and the surgical and digital imaging departments.

The laboratory requires five new machines including a histology grossing station for testing biopsies prior to and during surgery. They are also hoping to purchase three new colonoscopes and biological cabinets for sterilizing and storing the equipment.

Altogether, the total bill is about $446,560. And though they have already raised about $100,000 before the campaign officially began on Thursday, Perrino said there is a long way to go. This may be a Christmas campaign, but they won’t be giving up when the holiday is past.

“For people wanting to make gifts, we will be just as grateful in January as December. We will continue to fundraise until we have every dollar,” she said. “We are just going to do the best we can. They need the equipment, so we have to keep going.”

The good news is that this new equipment will assist not only in cancer diagnosis but other illnesses as well.

“That’s what we specialize in, as an acute care hospital, is diagnosis of disease,” said Perrino. “If we can do that well, if we can do it in a very timely fashion, then we can get people to the right places and start improving quality of life and finding cures.”

One of the problems for hospitals is they use the equipment so heavily, probes may have a relatively short lifespan.  Penticton’s hospital serves the entire region: Princeton to Osoyoos, Oliver to Penticton and Summerland.

“For colonoscopies, we do about 250 per year, so they only have a lifespan of about five years. We really want to make sure the equipment is up to date,” said Perrino, adding the laboratory does about 850,000 tests a year. “Our turnaround time for getting blood tests back and getting back diagnoses is amazing. We are one of the best in the province, so we really want to maintain that.”

Besides providing for better patient care, Perrino explained, keeping the hospital on the leading edge for equipment has a positive side effect. One of the reasons Penticton has been able to retain an “outstanding medical staff,” Perrino said, is because of the availability of the state-of-the-art CT scanner, digital mammography and MRI machines.

“When you are the best, you attract some of the very best,” she said. “We’ve told the staff we will make sure you have the very best equipment to do the work you need to do.”