The Friends of Wexford General Hospital have reached a massive milestone in their campaign for an MRI scanner for the hospital, having raised the required €250,000 to fund the vital piece of equipment.
Members of the Friends committee met last week to make one final adjustment to their fundraising sign at Wexford General Hospital - the very satisfying addition of a new board, simply saying: 'Job done. Thanks to everyone.' The fundraising drive started about 18 months ago but the public campaign, really ramped up a little over a year ago, according to Friends chairman Ciarán Sheridan.
Mr Sheridan said: 'We have hit and exceeded our target. We committed to raising €250,000. The HSE has committed to providing the very considerable remaining funding.'
He stressed that the funds collected by the Friends would not be handed over until the work was carried out.
He described the whole campaign as 'an amazing success story for the entire county', adding that with the amount of events that were hold over the 18 months, it would be hard work to find anyone who hadn't contributed to the campaign in some way.
Events included the Hope and Dream 2018, two Hospital Balls, a black tie ball in Enniscorthy, amongst hundreds of other fundraisers and donations. The third Hospital Ball, which takes place this month, is still being held for the MRI campaign - money raised will go to the Friends for future essential hospital equipment.
'What has been clearly demonstrated is that Wexford people take great pride in their hospital,' said Mr Sheridan.
He said the past year and a half had been an incredible journey with surprises coming from every corner of the county.
'A retired teacher, having chased me down through my father, handed me a cheque for €5,000 one day. She wasn't even my teacher, it was just something she wanted to support. A Wexford businessman gave me another cheque for €5,000 another day - didn't want a presentation or any fuss, just wanted to donate. All across the county, people got together and came up with events. There were people who spent months organising things, in pubs, schools, everywhere.'
He said the effort put in by so many people had been simply amazing, and every cheque had added up, in the end, to something momentous.
A temporary MRI facility is set to be operational at the hospital at the beginning of November, which will have capacity for some emergency cases where travelling is not an option for the patient.
It is expected to take another two years for the MRI scanner to be built and fully operational.
Mr Sheridan said: 'The planning process for the permanent MRI is underway and we would hope to see it up and running within two years. It's unlikely to be ready any sooner than that because the build, which I understand is quite complex, will take about nine months. The planning process could take up to a year before that.'
He added that they had finalised a location for the building, that would not clash with any possible future works on the hospital.
The Friends have, through fundraising activities and donations, contributed greatly to Wexford General Hospital over the years, replacing various equipment such a CT scanner, and funding units such as the Oncology Day Care unit and the building of the new early pregnancy assessment unit and foetal assessment unit in 2016.
In recent weeks, they funded the replacement of a tilt table which the hospital simply did not have a budget for.
Mr Sheridan remarked: 'The thing with these campaigns is that they're hard to get started but when they do, they don't stop. There will always be things that the hospital needs but we have to be careful that we don't become the first port of call for the hospital or the HSE when that happens. This money is given by Wexford people, trying to make a real difference so we have a huge responsibility to treat it with real care.'