On Saturday evening, Michelle Bates, the Executive Director of the Airdrie Health Foundation was presented with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Award at the Airdrie Health Foundation Gala. Bates said that she never thought the work she had been doing on behalf of the foundation would be noticed on such a scale.
"It's really surprising and humbling and then you [realize] the gravity of what you're doing when you're just doing what you need to do and then realizing how it impacts others. It's nothing I could have ever imagined."
Member of Parliament for Airdrie-Banff Blake Richards awarded Bates the award in honour of the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. In a video that was streamed during the gala, he said that Bates' dedication to serving Airdrie, and the surrounding area, through her work with the Airdrie Health Foundation is inspirational.
"Frankly, it’s emotionally moving. Michelle has turned what was a very tragic situation for her and her family into triumph, and she’s just getting started," he said during the video presentation.
The Airdrie Health foundation's humble beginnings started as a family affair. Bates, who had lost her own son, started to advocate not only on behalf of her family but on behalf of others; asking questions like why Airdrie didn't have 24-hour urgent medical care. Her determination and tenacity meant that Bates would ask the questions over and over, so much so that she began to get traction with not only municipal leaders, but also with provincial officials working with Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services. Although Bates admitted the beginnings of her advocacy were a bit rocky.
"[But] to see the partnership that we have now, especially with local staff and managers and we're able to keep advocating; We keep saying we're hearing these stories and we need these resources," Bates said.
Bates' foundation and leadership and trailblazing, considering the Airdrie Health Foundation is, in her estimation, one of the only charities, through Alberta Health services under the Health Act that supports urgent care, has not gone unnoticed by others.
"[We're hearing that other urgent care [centres] might be looking; community members are looking at supporting their urgent care. It's really interesting to see the work that we do compare to other cities and what they have and what we lack and knowing that we're actually making such a huge difference."
During Saturday's night gala, whose theme was carnival, members of the public, as well as first responders and local municipal officials were all dressed to the nines in the hopes of not only raising awareness of what the foundation does but also raising much needing funding. Though Bates was not able to give a total amount of money raised over the course of the evening, there was a sizable donation of $300,000 dollars. The individual though does wish to remain anonymous. Bates explained that the way the foundation decides on how and where money should be spent is through engagement with urgent care staff.
"We do two funding rounds a year and we have a request form, and the managers or staff can think of what they need and what their gaps are; then they can make these requests and then the board reviews them, and we decide which ones are the priority," she said. "Those at the gala want to see where their money goes and I think this is really important."
This year's donations will fund the Pregnancy and Beyond program, while Bates underlined was the only program that ran through the COVID-19 pandemic for mothers in Airdrie.
"We're also funding for some training mannequins for pediatric[s] and adult[s]. It can be used in training with a life-threatening situation, but also in other situations as well."
Another portion of the donation will go towards equipment that the mental health clinic in Airdrie will use, which will help monitor those who have been prescribed medication that may have adverse side effects.
"Staff finds that patients that come to see them with some mental health needs are often prescribed antipsychotics and with those antipsychotic [medications] there are potential side effects and they find many of these patients aren't connected with a family doctor and so no one's really monitoring that. We purchased this piece of equipment where they can help monitor that."
Even as Bates enjoys recognition by the community and local leaders, she said there is much work and advocating to be done, and no time is better than the present. She said that she is in constant contact with staff at Airdrie's Urgent Care about a potential rolling back of COVID-19 restrictions and rules, although she admitted that such a change will not take place in the very near future.
"Our facility is just too small and there's no way that we can build up or out and so a replacement facility of some sort has to happen. I'm confident that they're looking at those plans and I'm confident that we should have some more information on that in probably that year to 18 months.
Apart from the donations of benefactors during the gala, Alberta Health Services announced at the end of August that over one million dollars in new funding will add staffing and three new care spaces to further improve and enhance urgent care services in Airdrie.
Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org