The Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre is in need of $125,000 for five more Space Lab cardiac monitors for the emergency department and that is the fundraising goal of this year’s Festival of Trees.
The 2022 Ponoka Festival of Trees kicked off with the opening night gala and auction Dec. 1. With the theme of “Snowflakes and Diamonds,” the Stagecoach Saloon was transformed into a shimmering rose-gold winter wonderland for the festival.
A four-day fundraising event for the Ponoka and District Health Foundation (PDHF), coordinator Diane Rose and PDHF chair Dorothy Ungstad said a few words to start the evening.
“In three short months we put this together and I’m proud of you,” said Rose to all the volunteers and organizers.
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA and Minister of Culture Ron Orr said a prayer before the meal, which was catered by Bob Ronnie Catering.
Dr. Greg Sawisky, a physician at Battle River Medical Clinic, gave a no-holds-barred appeal to attendees and he came prepared with props.
Sawisky used two cans on a string to jokingly illustrate how patients could still keep in contact with nurses when there is no monitor in their room.
His speech aimed to bring humour to the past two years of the pandemic and took some shots at the provincial and federal governments while presenting a serious tone on the current state of health care in Alberta.
From the UCP MLA’s who travelled over the holiday season in 2020, to physician shortages, the inflation rate and federal fiscal decisions, he didn’t pull any punches.
“If you or someone you know has had to go to the hospital recently, you no doubt have seen the difficult state of our health care system is in,” he said.
“People are waiting many, many hours in the emergency department, patients are lying on floors, there’s no ambulances for hours, wait times for surgeries are measured in years and not months. The system is in a challenge and our local hospital is not immune from theses challenges.”
He added that the hospital has had to close the ER periodically this past year, which has never happened in Ponoka before 2022.
“The problem cannot be blamed squarely on one person or political party … the truth is, through attrition, low taxes, cost cutting, willingness to accept status quo, increase in demands, population demographics, our system is failing us when it should be thriving,” said Sawisky.
He then urged all in attendance to speak with their MLA and other government representatives about the health care system so it will be there when they need it.
“Include them in conversations about health care. The fix will not be easy. It has been allowed to get to this point through years of decisions and will require a long time to undo what has been allowed to happen.”
The live auction then started with enthusiastic bidding, with the liquor tree, featuring 50 varieties of hard liquor, went for $3,000.
The Ponoka Stampede won a bidding war for the Wonderland Tree, but donated it back to the festival and the bidding continued.
The rest of the festival included a senior’s tea on Dec. 2, followed by ladies wine night that evening, Family Fun Day on Dec. 3, and Sensitive Santa and an opening house viewing of the trees on Dec. 4.