KDH celebrates 60 years with virtual open house

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On Saturday, June 29, the Kemptville District Hospital (KDH) celebrated its 60th anniversary. Due to COVID-19, it was not possible to hold the planned Strawberry Social, but hospital staff worked hard to put together a virtual Open House through Zoom, which had over 50 people in attendance.

KDH Communications and Patient Relations Officer, Jenny Read, hosted the live virtual event, which included comments from Hospital CEO Frank Vassallo, as well as several local dignitaries, including MP Michael Barrett, MPP Steve Clark, Warden Pat Sayeau, and Mayor Nancy Peckford. “It is obvious that this hospital has served as the bedrock of our community and a real beacon of light and hope during a number of different occasions, including the Ice Storm and, more recently, COVID-19,” Mayor Peckford said in her speech. “I would like to thank early volunteers who had the foresight and tenacity to bring a hospital to Kemptville.”

Communications and Patient Relations Assistant, and resident historian, Lynne Clifford-Ward, touched on the early days of KDH in a brief history of the hospital. She explained that it actually took three tries to get the hospital off the ground, and the final push came from the Winchester District Memorial Hospital which said it no longer had the capacity to service the needs of the Kemptville community.

“This meant that a sprawling area with about 10,000 residents did not have access to a hospital within a 20-mile radius,” she said. “[It was the] call to action to build the hospital.”

With a blitz canvas in June, 1958, the community raised $282,800 in just five days, the equivalent of $2.5 million today. By February of 1960, the construction of the hospital was well underway, but, with escalating costs, the community had to raise another $147,000 to complete the project. They rose to the challenge by targeting large national corporations which had a presence in the area and the fundraising target was met.

On June 29, 1960, KDH officially opened its doors to the public, with over 2,000 interested visitors taking guided tours of the new state of the art facility. The Ottawa Citizen described the new hospital as a “castle in the sky”, and “one of the best designed, most modern hospitals in Canada.”

KDH has grown and changed immensely over the past six decades. This includes multiple additions, which allowed the expansion of its services and ability to provide the public with quality healthcare close to home.

KDH obtained its first accreditation in 1964, which was a huge accomplishment for such a small hospital. In 2016 it received exemplary standing from Accreditation Canada, with a perfect score across the board.

The hospital would not be where it is today without the hard work of the KDH Auxiliary and KDH Foundation. Founded in 1959, the KDH Auxiliary has raised almost $1.5 million for the hospital, due in part to their very successful annual Hey Day fundraiser. The KDH Foundation came into being in 1979 and has since raised a total of $12 million for the hospital to buy equipment needed for patient care.

The KDH community is made up of dedicated staff who are committed to providing quality care to residents of North Grenville and beyond. KDH Chief of Staff, Dr. Penny McGregor, says that KDH and North Grenville has been successful in recruiting family physicians because of the supportive and collegial atmosphere at the hospital. “Many of our doctors express how proud they are to be part of a great team, and I have heard this even more during the recent significant challenges we’ve all faced with COVID,” she said. “As the Chief of the medical staff, I am very proud of the doctors that we have with us and the services we provide.”

VP of Nursing and Clinical Services, Cathy Burke, said there is a tradition of respect, professionalism, and compassion within the nursing staff at KDH. An example of this is the nomination of three of their nurses for the national Hospital News Nursing Hero awards in 2018. “A much more recent example is the outpouring of gratitude to our nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cathy said. “They bravely come to work every day, not knowing what they will face, and carry out their duties using the same qualities they always have.”

Lynne Clifford-Ward said at the end of her presentation that KDH continues to serve the community with innovation and visionary leadership in ways that would have been unimaginable six decades ago.

“What remains constant is this: the hospital is the heart of a vibrant community which has served and cared for generations of local people, and its success in its healthcare journey is, in no small way, due to outstanding community support.”

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