By Darren Lum
The 23rd annual general meeting for the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation was about recognizing the uncertainty of living through a pandemic and the strength of the community, which provides the backbone for the local health-care services.
At the AGM, which was held via Zoom on Thursday morning, Sept. 17, there were two contrasting themes: hello and goodbye.
It was hello to the world of masks and social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which has meant the cancellation of major fundraising events and altering how things typically work. It was goodbye to long-standing chairperson Peter Oyler, who announced he was stepping away from the board after close to 17 years of service.
Auditor John West of Grant Thornton LLP congratulated the foundation’s board and the community on a successful year.
“As our communication letter notes no issues, no unadjusted items, no significant items to report to the board and we don’t have recommendations for improvements because we couldn’t find anything needing improving,” he said.
West presented the foundation’s financial report up to March 31, 2020.
The report stated: “As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation has had to curtail and postpone some of the fundraising activities that were scheduled to take place subsequent to year end. While these actions may have an impact on future donations and fundraising revenue, it is not known at this time what that impact will be. The Foundation’s investment portfolio has experienced a decrease in market value as a result of the volatility in the markets.”
The value of the portfolio is $1,075,695, which is down from $1,307,512.
The report further stated: “Accordingly, the financial position and results of operations as of and for the year ended March 31, 2020 have not been adjusted to reflect their impact, if any. At this time, the duration and impact of the outbreak and its potential adverse effects on the Foundation’s business or results of operations are uncertain and will depend on future developments.”
Executive director Lisa Tompkins acknowledged fundraising efforts have been hindered because of COVID-19. She said there has been support from the community, the board and volunteers.
“And while many of our traditional fundraising events have been furloughed or cancelled we continue to develop and execute new ways of virtual outreach and we’re nonetheless so appreciative of the support and generosity shown by so many over these past months and this year,” she said.
President and CEO Carolyn Plummer credited the foundation for its ongoing support of capital expenses and programming for the community. The foundation transferred $909,171, contributing to acute and emergency care, palliative care and community support services.
Plummer said it’s been 20 years since the Minden and Haliburton hospitals were built and that achievement wasn’t possible without the foundation.
“Our current main facilities wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the tremendous efforts of the foundation to raise the necessary funds. And it’s been 20 years since our current facilities have opened. We’re extremely grateful for all the support you’ve provided to make that happen,” she said.
She adds a celebration for the milestone is being considered.
Retiring from the foundation board are Angela Jones and Murray Martin, who were acknowledged for their efforts. Also retiring is HHHSF chairperson Peter Oyler, who has served on the board since 2003.
Oyler was initially at a loss for words.
“But it’s been a great 16 years … plus,” he said.
He joined the board as a liaison for the Township of Minden Hills council, which he served on for several terms.
“I think what has kept me going on the foundation board the last 16 years or so is the fact that this community and the board have been so dedicated to the cause and continue to be dedicated to the cause of supporting the foundation and the corporation providing top quality health care in this community. There’s no doubt in my mind about that,” he said.
Oyler thanked this board and past board members, current and past CAOs, executive directors such as Tompkins and past executive director Dale Walker, past and present staff such as Carol Simmons. To the community, he said, “Your constant giving has made the foundation and our health services what it is. To the corporation, to Carolyn, to your staff, particularly to all your front line workers Carolyn during this crazy, crazy year – a year in which we all want to take the opportunity to press the restart button – my personal thanks to all that you’ve done.” Oyler also thanked the news media in attendance.
Incoming chairperson Eric Recalla said Oyler provided “leadership and vision to a growing foundation. He led the foundation in raising over $11 million to the present date. Peter has been timeless and tireless … as a dedicated leader. It is impossible to truly count the hours he has volunteered over his 17 years as a great ambassador for the foundation and the community,” he said.
Oyler deflected the credit for the $11 million, saying it is owed to the community.
Among the achievements that Oyler has been at the helm of the foundation for include the raising of the $6 million for the construction of the hospital and the palliative care centre.
“Peter, on behalf of the foundation, I want to thank you for your excellent leadership and wish you all the best in your future endeavours,” Recalla said.
Recalla said Oyler’s style of leadership includes collaboration.
“I have a very active committee board and I will be soliciting their input as much as possible,” he said.
The past vice-chairperson has been on the board for five years and is proud about having been raised in the north end of Haliburton County. Although the 66-year-old left the county for work once he graduated high school, he always had property here in his family name.
As the incoming chairperson for HHHSF during a time of uncertainty with COVID-19, Recalla’s message to the public was “Be optimistic. Be patient, and be caring for other people. Be careful of your surroundings. It’s important we care for other people and care for ourselves and our family.”