MANITOULIN – A fundraising campaign has been initiated by the M’Chigeeng First Nation toward the purchase of four new ventilators (two for each of the Manitoulin hospital sites in Mindemoya and Little Current) and is already receiving tremendous support from local municipalities, First Nations, businesses and individuals. 

In a letter to all chiefs, mayors and reeves of Manitoulin, organizations and businesses, M’Chigeeng Chief Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige wrote on March 18, “I am writing this letter to you to seek your support in a Manitoulin wide initiative to support our local hospitals in the purchase of four proper ventilators for use at our local hospitals. This would mean each hospital would be able to order two additional ventilator systems and add to their hospitals. Currently, each site has one portable ventilator.”

“These portable ventilator systems are intended to keep a patient stable before transporting to Sudbury,” wrote Ogimaa-kwe Debassige. “We want to ensure that we support our local hospitals and staff to be able to provide the best medical treatment as possible. Each ventilator will cost approximately $20,000. If we fundraise beyond $80,000 the additional dollars can be utilized to support our hospitals in combating this virus.”

Chief Debassige explained, “health services manager Roger Beaudin and I have been working with Ms. Paula Fields, vice president of clinical Services and chief nursing officer (MHC) to see how we can support our local hospitals to ensure they have adequate resources to combat COVID-19. M’Chigeeng First Nation is pleased to take the lead in initiating this campaign. As such, M’Chigeeng First Nation is committing $10,000 to the MHC Ventilator Campaign and we challenge you all to contribute.”

The Sheshegwaning First Nation has donated $10,000 to the campaign, while a $10,000 donation has been provided by Manitoulin Transport and the Smith Foundation in the amount of $10,000 as well. The Little Current Lions Club also donated $10,000 the day the campaign was launched.

Jeffrey Smith, executive vice-president of the Manitoulin Group of Companies told the Recorder on Monday, “I had heard of the ventilator fundraiser through social media. We became aware of the campaign to raise funds for the purchase of four additional ventilators for our two hospitals on Manitoulin Island. We applaud Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige for her leadership in spearheading this effort to raise funds for this urgently needed equipment.”

“We want to encourage all other municipalities and First Nations on the Island and the general public to support the campaign,” said Mr. Smith. “We all need to support our local hospitals.” 

Dean Roy, chief of the Sheshegwaning First Nation told the Recorder, “we matched the M’Chigeeng First Nation donation of $10,000. We need to make sure our hospitals have the resources and materials it needs to respond in an emergency.” 

Chief Roy explained, “we have 35 people in our community who have been identified as vulnerable (to lung disease). Furthermore, 15 youth got blastomycosis. If we have one local youth that has to go to the hospital we need to make sure these ventilators are in place. This whole thing certainly hits close to home for us.”

As of press deadline this week, a total of $69,355 has been raised in the ventilator fundraising campaign.

At a special meeting of Central Manitoulin council on Monday, council considered the request from Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige. 

“I would like to put forward a motion that we participate in the fundraising campaign, as requested by Ogimaa Linda Debassige,” said Councillor Al Tribinevicius, “and that we try and get two ventilators for each hospital.”

“I thank Linda Debassige for spearheading this fundraising campaign,” said Councillor Dale Scott. 

“So do we have a dollar figure in mind we want to contribute?” asked Mayor Richard Stephens. 

Councillor Tribinevicius said, “the hospitals have portable ventilators that goes with a sick patient as they are transferred to hospital in Sudbury. If this virus continues, which I believe it will, it’s very important to have these additional ventilators in both facilities, so anyone who is suffering from this virus has a chance to recover.”

Councillor Derek Stephens told council, “I have been following Linda’s campaign online. They are looking for a total of $80,000. I’ve also talked to some health care professionals concerning (COVID-19).” 

He said it has been indicated that there may not be enough staff or resources to handle the number of patients in the case of a major pandemic. “As much as I like the motion to put funds towards the ventilators, I would like to see the funds being sent to the hospitals to be used for whatever they feel is needed and practical during any emergency (because of COVID-19).”

“I commend Linda Debassige for reaching out and initiating this campaign,” said Councillor Steve Shaffer. “At this point we don’t know what the province will be doing in terms of helping out the hospitals, with ventilators and such. I’d like to see us provide funding support in general to anything the hospitals need in the fight against COVID-19 and not limit it to just ventilators.

Councillors Angela Johnston and Rose Diebolt agreed with Councillor Shaffer. 

“I agree with Derek,” said Councillor Scott.

Council unanimously agreed to pass the motion that Central Manitoulin will contribute $10,000 and that the municipal staff will get in touch with the hospital to look at where the funds would be best suited to contribute to fight the COVID-19 virus.