The new St. Paul’s Hospital will feature a state of the art hearing loss centre, funded through $12 million in equal $6 million commitments from a Rotary Club foundation and the hospital’s own fundraising arm.
The Rotary Club of Vancouver has been supporting hearing loss or deafness for three decades. In 1985, it formed the Rotary Club of Vancouver Hearing Foundation to address an unmet need in the philanthropy community. Through bike-a-thons and other events, it has raised over $3.5 million.
But the $6 million pledge is the biggest fundraising challenge for the charity. Jack Zaleski, president of the Rotary’s hearing foundation, said the St. Paul’s endeavour will be separate from the smaller donor bike events.
“We recognize with this opportunity that we can do something truly extraordinary, creating the premier clinic for those afflicted with hearing problems and deafness, a centre where everything will be under one roof.”
Zaleski said the foundation will leave no stone unturned in its mission to raise money. It will approach pharmaceutical companies, technology companies and everyone else involved in supplying services and equipment for the hearing community.
The most recent big donation to the hospital development project came from the Louie family, which owns London Drugs. Two years ago, Vancouver billionaire Jimmy Pattison pledged $75 million for the new hospital, which is expected to be built by the fall of 2026 at a cost of nearly $2 billion. The existing hospital on Burrard Street will likely be demolished with land sales helping to fund the redevelopment of the False Creek flats site.
The B.C. Rotary Hearing and Balance Centre will include examination rooms, surgical suites, research space and laboratories. Funds will be earmarked for audiology testing and research, tinnitus and vestibular conditions that often affect balance. Since hearing often affects seniors, the centre will have specialized care for those who, because of age, mobility and geography, are less likely to access specialized hearing care.
“Benefiting thousands of patients provincewide, this funding will help us transform the patient experience …” said Dr. Brian Westerberg, head of the division of otolaryngology at St. Paul’s.
He noted that hearing problems are sometimes linked to other conditions so the new centre will allow for improved interactions and collaborations between doctors and health researchers in numerous areas including neurology, physiotherapy, kinesiology, psychiatry, ophthalmology and gerontology
The existing BC Rotary Hearing and Balance Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital had 4,629 patient visits from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.
Broek Bosma, chief development officer for the St. Paul’s Foundation, characterized the donation pledge by Rotary as a “golden opportunity we did not want to miss.”
St. Paul’s has been the province’s main referral centre for patients with complex ear and hearing problems and it was the first hospital in Canada to offer cochlear implants in 1982. Since then, nearly 800 adult patients have had the revolutionary procedure there. B.C. Children’s Hospital offers the procedure as well to pediatric patients.