Wingham Hospital Auxiliary continues hospital, patient support
BY DENNY SCOTT
While things have changed over the years for local hospital auxiliaries, the volunteer-driven groups are still helping to make sure patients have the most pleasant experience possible when they find themselves in the hospital.
The Wingham Hospital Auxiliary has been providing support for the Wingham and District Hospital and its patients for over a century. The group was formed in 1906 and, according to co-chair Trudy Thomson, is the oldest thriving auxiliary in the south-central region of Ontario.
“We have around 70 members and our yearly membership is $5,” she told The Citizen in an interview. “Our main objective is to provide support to the hospital and patients in any way possible.”
The group runs some big events throughout a normal year, including their main fundraisers: spring and fall rummage sales, though this year’s may have to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic control measures.
The group also holds its Tag Day during Nurses’ week, which celebrates those in the essential services those in the nursing profession provide.
“We have volunteers out in the community with bedpans collecting donations,” she said. “That’s one of our fundraisers.”
The group also hosts a poinsettia tea and bake sale in December, and runs the new gift shop at the hospital to help support the organization throughout the year.
While, in the past, volunteers were in the hospital helping out with day-to-day services, Thomson said those kinds of efforts are rare nowadays, leaving the group to fundraise for large purchases. Over the past several years, for example, the group has bought oncology chairs, crash carts, pressure-relief mattresses, wheelchairs, stretchers for the emergency department, vital sign monitors, patient lifts and specialized equipment for various departments in the hospital.
“Over the last three or four years, we have donated between $10,000 and $15,000 in equipment to the hospital, but our main purpose is patient care and comfort,” Thomson said, explaining the auxiliary is distinct from the hospital foundation which fundraises for big-ticket items and renovations.
The group also decided, four years, ago to create bursaries for F.E. Madill School students going into medical fields. Each year, two $500 bursaries are awarded.
“Unfortunately, over the past number of years, the auxiliary’s role in the hospital has been diminished,” she said. “We cannot go into the hospital and help with patients. We used to do a lot more, but that has kind of stopped.”
She said that members have been asked to help at the Royal Oaks Health and Wellness Centre, housed in the former Wingham Public School that has been turned into a healthcare campus for the hospital, as well as directing people during the recent significant renovations at the Wingham hospital.
“Unless we’re asked to do specific things like that, however, we’re not really involved,” she said, adding the group used to volunteer to help in the chemotherapy unit, but that hasn’t happened since the renovations.
The group has some dedicated members, including many who have received accolades for being with it 25 years, 30 years and through to 45 years. Those who hit 25 years are presented, for example, a life membership award.
The group’s longest-serving member is Jo English, Thomson said, who recently marked 60 years with the organization.
“She’s 100 and started way back when there was a little tuck shop at the hospital,” she said. “She’s been involved in a lot.”
Over her time with the group, English has made diapers and sheets and helped to grow a vegetable garden.
Last June, the group recognized English, alongside other members who had been part of the group for 25, 30, 40 or 50 years.
Recently, the organization has been helping out through the COVID-19 pandemic by arranging to help the front-line medical staff with donations of food and beverages. The group has provided meals to those working in the hospital to let them know that their dedication is appreciated.