/ Stories

Spirit of the North and Integris Credit Union partner to improve health for North Cariboo women


The Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation's logo
Thanks to a partnership between Integris, Quesnel, and Spirit of the North, Northern Health was able to improve OBGYN services in Quesnel.

(Based on material submitted by the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation.)

In spring 2019, Dr. Gavin Grapes, Chief of Staff at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel, identified a problem: a gap in obstetrical and gynaecological (OBGYN) services for women in the North Cariboo.

This meant that many women had to travel to get OBGYN services – or they avoided getting medical attention altogether. This was a problem with wide-ranging health impacts for women.

As a result, Dr. Grapes started conversations with Northern Health to recruit an OBGYN physician to Quesnel. During these talks, they realized there was also a need for OBGYN equipment valued at $45,000, and additional operating room time, resources, and support. 

When Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation (Spirit of the North) presented the chance to donate to support this to Integris Credit Union, they responded with a proposition: Why not use some funds they’d already raised for women’s health?

The people of Quesnel have a long history of raising money to improve health outcomes in their community. The OBGYN project provided yet another opportunity for residents to do just that … but little did they know that they had already done it!

The Integris Support Your Girls (SYG) fundraiser was an annual event that ran from 2011 to 2016 to raise money for a digital mammography machine at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital. Over six years, it raised $148,000.

Two men and woman hold up medical equipment.
Left to right: Dr. Stephen Boakye, Specialist OB/GYN; Daryl Petsul, Health Services Administrator; Amanda Booth, Perioperative Nurse.

“That shared success is due to the all-in support of our Quesnel friends and neighbours,” says Laurie Johansson, SYG founding chair. “The people and businesses that donated auction items, purchased tickets to the events, then joined us every year at the event.”

Then the Province announced that they would provide the digital mammography machine to G.R. Baker Memorial. About $121,000 of the SYG funds helped fund enhancements to the mammography unit, but there was still some money left over.

“We held the surplus SYG funds while seeking the next opportunity to make a significant investment in women’s health,” says Peggy McKenzie, SYG past chair. “We are delighted to partner with our community and Spirit of the North to invest $20,000 in support of enhanced OB-GYN capabilities at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital.”

Additional dollars were generously provided from the community directly to Spirit of the North, who then matched every dollar that came in. Ultimately, this community collaboration is great news for families in the North Cariboo.

Through its generous donors, Spirit of the North has provided for much-needed equipment at many Northern Health facilities in Quesnel over the years. These are for items that would otherwise not be funded through any other means. 

As equipment or enhancements to health care have been identified, funding has been made available to support these areas. To name a few, Ear, Nose and Throat surgical equipment for Dr. Naidoo at G.R. Baker Memorial, kitchen equipment at the Grace Young Centre and patient comfort and recreational equipment for Dunrovin.

Spirit of the North is happy to work with donors who choose to designate gifts to health care in the Quesnel area. The organization provides a charitable means for individuals and businesses to give back to the area of health care they choose and designate the facility and location as well.

“We are pleased to partner with the community-minded people at Integris and generous community donors by matching funds to support a value-added service for patients in the referral area to G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital,” says Judy Neiser, CEO of the Spirit of the North.

In September 2019, Dr. Stephen Boakye, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist, arrived in Quesnel. To mark the occasion, Dr. Boakye was presented with a welcoming gift from his community: the specialized equipment and the additional surgical time in G.R. Baker Memorial’s operating room that he needed to provide the best possible care for his patients.

This is a testament to the generosity of the people and organizations that enrich the community of Quesnel. Together, we have enhanced access to OBGYN services, leading to improved health outcomes for women of the North Cariboo.