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Focused on improving healthcare in the community


By Catherine Pritchard

Mammograms for uninsured women. State-of-the-art incubators for tiny premature babies. Financial assistance for needy patients who can’t afford vital medications – or basic needs. Programs and services for diabetics. A clinic that provides diagnostic services for people at risk of lung cancer and coordinated specialized care for those suffering from the disease.

All are important aspects of care provided through Cape Fear Valley Health System.

And all – and much more – are available because of financial assistance from the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation. The nonprofit foundation’s mission is to serve the community by building awareness and philanthropic support for Cape Fear Valley Health as the health system provides compassionate, quality healthcare for all of its patients.

Started in November 1995, the foundation has raised millions of dollars over its 23 years for programs and services aimed at improving health and wellness in the community.

Many have heard of the foundation because of its three signature annual events – the Circle of Friends Gala in January, the Ribbon Walk & Run for Cancer each spring and the Friends of Children Golf and Tennis Classic each fall.

But few likely realize the breadth and importance of the foundation’s contributions to the community. Cape Fear Valley’s Diabetes and Endocrine Center, which has treated thousands of people since it opened 11 years ago, was built with nearly $1.9 million raised by the foundation.

A training simulation lab was opened at the hospital in 2017 with $226,000 raised by the foundation. In the lab, high-fidelity simulation mannequins are used to train clinicians in a variety of real-life scenarios.

The mannequins, which can display both neurological and physiological symptoms and recognize up to 300 different medications, are programmed to react the way humans would to the care that’s given. The training experience is invaluable. In a meeting with the foundation board, a physician in the hospital’s residency program recounted how he had practiced a certain scenario in the lab one day, then found himself dealing with the real-life situation in the hospital the next day. Board member Paige Ross said he said he was grateful to have had the lab experience.

The foundation funds educational scholarships for nurses, paid for the complete remodel of a treatment room in the children’s wing of the ER and provides support for cancer patients at Cape Fear Valley’s Cancer Treatment and CyberKnife Center. The foundation funds summer camps for diabetic children, provides car seats to new mothers who couldn’t otherwise leave the hospital with their newborns, recognizes physicians for their service and supports a program that sends community paramedics into the homes of people with pneumonia, COPD and heart failure to help them with transitional care.

It bought an ultrasound machine and probe for cardiac care, a glaucoma laser system and a vein finder for pediatric patients who have to undergo needle sticks.

And those investments are just a fraction of what the foundation has contributed to the hospital and the area in programs, technology, equipment and initiatives aimed at improving patient care and overall community health.

“There are all these behind-the-scenes impacts in so many patients’ lives that no one has any idea about,” said Emily Schaefer, president of the foundation board. “A lot of times it wouldn’t have been possible without the foundation.”

Despite its multi-million-dollar budget, Cape Fear Valley operates on thin margins with little extra money for programs and services beyond its care obligations.

The foundation was created to raise money to provide the kind of extras that greatly enhance the patient experience and improve the health of the overall community.

“Here’s how I look at it,” said foundation board member Paige Ross. “It only benefits us to have the very best hospital that our community can have. If you call an ambulance in Fayetteville, it’s going to take you to Cape Fear Valley. It’s where you’re going to be in your time of need and I want it to be the best it can be.”

That’s the foundation’s ultimate mission.

It can do that only with the financial help of the community it aims to serve.

And the community has answered its call, said Sabrina Brooks, the foundation’s executive director. The foundation raised $1.7 million in 2017, with 31 percent of that amount coming from its three signature events, 29 percent coming from grants, an astounding 14 percent from donations by Cape Fear Valley employees, 12 percent from major gifts and endowments, 8 percent from community events and fundraisers and 6 percent from annual giving.

“We’re blessed that we have so many groups and individuals that want to support us,” Brooks said.

Schaefer said that the hospital is under increasing financial pressure, given gaps between costs and reimbursements. That makes the foundation’s work even more crucial, she said.

“Our being there is going to be very important,” she said. “I think we’ve always been an asset but I think we’re going to become even more important.”

One of the foundation’s priorities is the hospital residency program because of the hope that those doctors will be more likely to stay in this area to practice after spending years training here. That’s a significant goal. While there are lots of doctors in the Triangle area, Charlotte and other metro areas, more are needed here and particularly in rural counties around Fayetteville.

“We’re very much focused on this,” Brooks said.

Brooks said the foundation’s donors have a positive impact on the overall health of the community, whatever the size of their gift. All are appreciated and used to help the local community.

“Everyone deserves a high level of care,” she said.

That’s exactly what the foundation is about.

For information about the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation, check www.capefearvalley.com/foundation.