Char­i­ta­ble sec­tor es­sen­tial dur­ing COVID-19 cri­sis

More must be done to help non-prof­its, Doug Roth says.

Vancouver Sun - - OPIN­ION - Doug Roth is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion of Canada.

In the avalanche of news re­lated to the un­prece­dented pan­demic of COVID-19 and the re­sult­ing re­sponse from gov­ern­ments at all lev­els, we are fac­ing a dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quence that many peo­ple might not be aware of — the dec­i­ma­tion of the char­i­ta­ble health sec­tor in Canada. A broad cho­rus of voices has ap­pealed to the prime min­is­ter for ur­gent sup­port.

On March 29, the prime min­is­ter ac­knowl­edged the plight of the char­i­ta­ble sec­tor, stat­ing: “Not only are or­ga­ni­za­tions in the char­i­ta­ble sec­tor and the non-profit sec­tor do­ing in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant work dur­ing dif­fi­cult times, they’re also in many cases see­ing their do­na­tions dry up and are very wor­ried about their ca­pac­ity to con­tinue to do the work they’re do­ing.” He went on to an­nounce sup­port for some char­i­ties and in­di­cated that as­sis­tance for the broader char­ity sec­tor was forth­com­ing. The fol­low­ing day, the prime min­is­ter clar­i­fied that char­i­ties will be in­cluded in a wage-sub­sidy pro­gram.

This is a good start, but much more needs to be done to help char­i­ties help peo­ple in Canada at a par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble time. In par­tic­u­lar, char­i­ties feel their pro­grams and re­search ini­tia­tives are also in need of sup­port.

The re­al­ity is that the char­i­ta­ble sec­tor, al­ready un­der stress, is be­ing hit by two de­struc­tive con­se­quences of COVID-19: a tremen­dous blow to the abil­ity of the health­care sec­tor to re­spond to peo­ple in need, and the eco­nomic dis­rup­tion caus­ing job losses in all ar­eas of the econ­omy. With the nec­es­sary re­stric­tions of so­cial dis­tanc­ing and pro­tect­ing health, fundrais­ing events are can­celled, and do­na­tions, which char­i­ties rely on for their op­er­at­ing bud­gets, have col­lapsed for many or­ga­ni­za­tions.

It is now when the work of char­i­ties in the com­mu­nity is most im­por­tant that it is also most at risk.

At Heart and Stroke, one of these ar­eas is crit­i­cal health re­search. We are the largest non-gov­ern­men­tal fun­der of heart and brain health re­search in Canada. Ev­ery year, peo­ple in Canada in­vest $33 mil­lion in Heart and Stroke, which goes to the pur­suit of an­swers about how to pre­vent, di­ag­nose, treat and re­cover from heart dis­ease, stroke and vas­cu­lar cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment.

We part­ner with Canada’s lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties, re­search in­sti­tu­tions, hos­pi­tals and com­mu­nity re­searchers to make those dis­cov­er­ies that lead to new knowl­edge of the fun­da­men­tal biomed­i­cal sci­ence, new treat­ments, tests or in­ter­ven­tions in clin­i­cal care and prac­tice and solutions that im­prove health.

Be­cause the risk for de­vel­op­ing com­pli­ca­tions is higher for peo­ple with heart dis­ease and stroke if in­fected with COVID-19, the time is ever more ur­gent to quickly en­able re­search.

Heart and Stroke is a leader in life-sup­port and CPR train­ing, poised to as­sist re­tired doc­tors and nurses as they re­turn to prac­tice. Heart and Stroke is tak­ing an ac­tive role by re­fresh­ing their re­sus­ci­ta­tion skills through our life-sup­port train­ing pro­grams. We are work­ing closely with in­sti­tu­tions to help cre­ate flex­i­ble learn­ing ap­proaches that en­sure high-qual­ity CPR can be de­liv­ered safely in all set­tings.

Heart and Stroke also sup­ports peo­ple liv­ing with heart dis­ease and stroke and their care­givers by pro­vid­ing ac­cu­rate, timely in­for­ma­tion across all our chan­nels. And as ev­i­dence emerges that smok­ing and va­p­ing may worsen the ef­fects of COVID-19, our decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in smok­ing (and more re­cently va­p­ing) preven­tion and ces­sa­tion is even more nec­es­sary.

We are only one char­ity among many that are of­fer­ing crit­i­cal ser­vices at this im­por­tant junc­ture. The im­por­tant role of all char­i­ties in healthy com­mu­ni­ties must not be for­got­ten.

On­tario’s min­is­ter of fi­nance, Rod Phillips, re­cently noted that in the re­sponse to COVID-19, “ev­ery dol­lar spent to save a job or save a life is a dol­lar well in­vested.” In­vest­ing in the char­i­ta­ble health sec­tor would save both.

The char­i­ta­ble sec­tor is call­ing on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for a sta­bi­liza­tion fund of up to $10 bil­lion, com­prised pri­mar­ily of grants to non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, to al­low char­i­ties to con­tinue our crit­i­cal work in the face of an an­tic­i­pated 30 per cent loss of in­come.

The not-for-profit sec­tor con­trib­utes more than eight per cent of GDP and em­ploys 2.4 mil­lion peo­ple in Canada. Char­i­ties are a vi­tal part of our econ­omy and part of the COVID-19 com­mu­nity so­lu­tion to keep­ing ev­ery­one safe.

We call on gov­ern­ments to in­clude Canada’s char­i­ta­ble sec­tor in their plans to sta­bi­lize and pro­tect what is most im­por­tant: the health and well-be­ing of Cana­di­ans.

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