The Royal University Hospital Foundation (RUHF) has been an integral partner in improvements undertaken by Saskatoon Health Region over the past year, thanks in part to a new fund they created.

It was last June, after a presentation on Better Every Day at their Donor Grand Rounds, that the RUHF Board of Directors approved the establishment of a $500,000 fund to support initiatives related to the 90-day cycles of improvement Saskatoon Health Region was embarking on.

Called the Innovation Fund, its goal was to provide financial support to these initiatives in real time.

“Usually, the Region comes forward with a request, and once approved by our board we develop and launch a public campaign to raise the funds required. It may be anywhere from one year to three years later before the funds are raised and are granted to the SHR to support the priority. Normally we raise funds for what has already been identified as a priority by the Region and requires new or additional money than what is funded through the budget,” explained Arla Gustafson, CEO of the RUHF.

However, the board liked the idea of being able to support the exploration, trial and work being done during these 90 days cycles in real time, giving the front lines what they need to test their ideas right away, as opposed to months or years down the road.

“If our Foundation was going to be a partner in supporting innovation, it was determined that we needed to make the funds available in a timely manner, and create a framework for approval to be responsive,” said Gustafson.

A gift from a donor estate which had not yet been fully committed, but which was intended to support equipment purchases and urgent priorities, allowed the RUHF to do just that and create the $500,000 Innovation Fund, which was able to respond more nimbly to requests for funds from the Region.

“The flexibility of that donation gave our board volunteers an opportunity to fund innovation, and things that are going to change practice and enhance the patient experience,” Gustafson said. “It allowed us to do business a little differently, which the board liked.”

 The bullet rounds team in the dedicated stroke unit.

The dedicated stroke unit was one of initiatives which the RUHF has helped to fund in the past year.

Funding was provided from the Innovation Fund for equipment for the Acute Stroke Unit at RUH, which was part of the 90 Days of Innovation: Ready Every Day initiative, as well as Safer Every Day pilots such as Team STEPPS (a teamwork system for health care professionals that offers training and coaching to improve communication between staff on a unit), and the Peer to Peer support program (meant to help staff in the emergency department support their peers who have experienced a traumatic event). The fund also helped the Safer Every Day work build capacity for physicians by enabling a team member to participate in discussions around safety at an international conference.

“We very much appreciate the support of the RUHF, and their willingness to be there to hear our ideas and partner with us,” said Petrina McGrath, Vice President of People, Practice and Quality with Saskatoon Health Region, and co-lead of Safer Every Day. “We are very grateful for all they have done for these initiatives.”

Gustafson and the RUHF Board of Directors are also happy they were able to support these projects.

“From what we’ve seen so far – some are still underway – they have had a positive impact, and we’re very pleased with that,” Gustafson said.