Supporting great health care in the Yukon

Philip Fitzgerald uses his skills as an accountant to chair the Yukon Hospital Foundation Board and oversee such fundraising events as the Northwestel Festival of Trees

Philip Fitzgerald was embarrassed when he is asked about his greatest sense of accomplishment as the chair of the Yukon Hospital Foundation.

“It sounds too financial,” he explained.
“It doesn’t sound right,” he said, finally. “But our bottom line was $800,000.”
That’s available money.

As a professional accountant, and the chief financial officer and president, hotels for Northern Vision Development, Fitzgerald understands it isn’t just about the money – it is all about what the money can do for Yukoners.

“We can reach our targets quicker and keep going,” he said.

“We had a two-year plan to raise funds for a fluoroscopy machine (a state-of-the-art full-motion video x-ray) and we will likely get it done under that time. And, so, we identified a new project: a simulation centre.

“It is a smart training facility – half-million-dollar dolls, really – that allows doctors, nurses and first responders to practise in real-life situations.

“It is for refreshment training and new procedures; we can take it to a mine site and program it to have a heart attack for their emergency medical technicians.”

That $800,000 profit at the end of the year means Yukoners will get medical services more quickly. For instance, through the good works of the Yukon Hospital Foundation and past foundation chairpersons, Whitehorse General Hospital has the only MRI in the north. And, along with advanced equipment throughout WGH, Dawson City and Watson Lake have portable ultrasound machines and First Nations Health Programs.

“I am not a health expert, I am an accountant,” Fitzgerald explained. “It is nice to know I can leverage my business skills to help the organization go to the next level… an organization that is already set up and has so much goodwill.”

Just as he keeps track of Northern Vision Development’s $85 million in assets as his day job, Fitzgerald sees his role with Yukon Hospital Foundation as “just one cog that coordinates all the great efforts to get everybody going in one direction.”

He said the board provides strategic guidance and support to a full-time president (who is paid by the government, not from donations), liaises with donors and drums up more donations. Then, of course, gives it to the hospital boards.

“I like (the foundation) as an NGO because its main effort is raising money, not spending money, so you get a real sense of accomplishment quickly,” Fitzgerald said. “Ultimately, the hospital touches all of us.”

Besides his volunteer work with the foundation, he is also on government boards, past-president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and is treasurer of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. And he was recently tapped to help out with his daughter’s Polarette’s Gymnastics Club.

His bosses at Northern Vision Development don’t seem to mind that he is being pulled in so many directions. Indeed, “Most, if not all of the senior managers, here, are involved in NGOs.

“It is the nature of the environment in the Yukon and we like giving back to the community.

“So, we work around it.”

There are benefits to any employer of staff volunteering, Fitzgerald said. “It is a great stepping stone for people to learn managerial and executive skills outside of your skillset and to prove yourself as a leader.

“You go into roles far quicker and you do more far quicker.”

Still, there are lots of opportunities for Fitzgerald to get out from behind the desk. He can be seen this Christmas season helping out at the annual Northwestel Festival of Trees’ events.

The trees will be displayed this year at the Yukon Government’s Main Administration Building from November 23 to 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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