Editorial: Maia Health Foundation will ensure bequests and gifts are made most of

The Maia Health Foundation is a worthy new venture raising money for health projects, including a double helipad on the ...
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The Maia Health Foundation is a worthy new venture raising money for health projects, including a double helipad on the roof of Christchurch Hospital.

Like the finest special effects, the best philanthropy is often invisible.

Some organisations rely on donations and bequests to be able to carry out their basic work and many more hope for them so they can offer the extra services, the icing on the cake.

That is certainly true in the health sector. While some will argue private donations - or charity hospitals - should not be needed in a country like New Zealand, the reality is district health boards are under enormous financial pressure these days and struggle to cover all the bases.

Philanthropy should not be seen or relied upon as the sole answer to the problems caused by under-investment in health and the creaking funding model. But it certainly helps.

Fortunately, some with money choose to use it to make a real difference to their community. In many cases, these people like to remain anonymous champions of good causes.

So it is with a Canterbury couple, John and Margaret, who are among the first to donate money to the new Maia Health Foundation. This charity, to be launched on May 25, aims to raise more than $5 million for facilities for Christchurch Hospital's new acute services building.

John and Margaret lost two teenage sons, eight years apart, after they drank tiny amounts of alcohol. Their untiring quest for answers eventually saw researcher Hannah Kennedy uncover evidence the boys had inherited gene mutations from their parents.

A foundation to attract and administer funds and donations was suggested before the earthquakes but was shelved as a result of changing priorities, until now. Maia chief executive Michael Flatman​ said there had been a feeling that a Canterbury charity was long overdue, given the Starship Foundation had been around for 25 years and the Middlemore Foundation almost as long.

Maia is being set up by the Canterbury District Health Board but will run independently, overseen by a board chaired by Christchurch lawyer Garth Gallaway​. It will actively fundraise for health projects, allow people to make tax-deductible donations and also handle bequests.

The first task is to collect $5.2m for a new helipad on top of the acute services building and improvements for the children's ward.

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The current plan is for the hospital's helipad to move from its patch of South Hagley Park to the roof of the new building. But the foundation wants to put $2m towards an expansion that would allow two helicopters to operate from the roof, with four rooftop beds where patients can be treated immediately as soon as they disembark or while awaiting transfer.

The remaining $3.2m would be used to add a playground to the children's ward, along with activity and family rooms. Glass walls would be installed in the paediatric emergency department so doctors can keep a close on young patients.

CHDB chief executive David Meates sees the benefit of the foundation. He says health-board funding would cover the basics of the new facilities but the extra money would make the acute services building "world class". Flatman says the foundation wants to lift the health system from "good to great".

We think it makes good sense for Canterbury to have its own charitable health foundation. A more coordinated approach will ensure the best use of largesse around the region.

 - Stuff

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