A PANDA for the babies

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SACF grants help the hospital help newborns, make camps better for Bissell

A panda is closer to arriving at the Sturgeon Community Hospital, thanks to a recent grant from the St. Albert Community Foundation (SACF).

Actually, it’s called a PANDA transport unit. The Pediatric and Neonatal Doernbecher Ambulance sounds like a machine that might be used only in cases of emergency but it’s far more common than that. And that means it’s also in far more demand, especially with this hospital’s very busy Labour, Delivery, Recovery and Post-partum (LDRP) unit.

“These units are used in all deliveries,” began Katrina Black, the executive director of the Sturgeon Community Hospital Foundation. “We have just shy of 3,000 babies born here a year. It’s phenomenal.”

The PANDA transport warmer is “an open isolate used for the initial resuscitation and stabilization of newborns following delivery. It provides heat, portable oxygen and suction.”

“It’s wonderful. Because it’s used in every delivery, you just can’t have enough of them. Our hospital is renowned. People come from all over to have their babies here. It’s just such an amazing hospital here. We’re really, really lucky.”

The community foundation handed the hospital $11,000 from its Thatcher Neonatal Care Fund to go to the purchase of one of these units. This isn’t the first time that this grant stream has helped the facility purchase one of these units either.

Black said that, just like new models of a vehicle, each year’s PANDA is updated to be better than the last year’s.

“It’s amazing from one year to the next how much better the technology is. We will continue to fundraise for the balance of the funds so we can purchase it.”

Each PANDA unit costs $26,000. The SCHF just had its Friendraiser Gala last weekend to help out with those and other efforts. Its main goal is to bring in $1 million for the purchase of critical technology and diagnostic equipment for the Endoscopy department.

Edmonton’s Bissell Centre also benefitted with a recent grant from the SACF. Cherise Roberts, fund development officer with the organization’s community engagement team, explained that they’re sending the money to its Moonlight Bay summer camp at Wabamun Lake.

That’s where it offers its homeless and low-income clients the chance to have a relaxing, bonding vacation with their families every year. She estimated that 180 people have attended the camp over the last two years.

“They have the opportunity to go out there for free. When they’re out there, they can participate in any sort of activity like hiking, canoeing, swimming – we have a little basketball court out there – or hang out by the campfire. We also have crafts and that kind of thing. At the first camp last year, we even brought out people to do a drumming circle.”

The money will mostly go towards the purchase of food. The organization covers all costs including transportation and lodging for its one- to four-day retreats.

Bissell started hosting camps out there in 1929 when it was part of the United Church. A few years ago, the church gifted the land to the charity.

“Now, we’re responsible for running the camps out there. Since we own it, when it’s not being used by the family camps, we do rent it out to the community to help offset our operating costs.”

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.