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PODCAST Toowoomba

CEO Alison Kennedy Talks About the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation

Read the Alison Kennedy podcast interview TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:
Look, hospitals in Queensland, they’re predominantly funded by the federal government, administered by the state government, but that funding quite often isn’t enough and sometimes you get funding with layers of government and there’s criteria around what can be purchased. You get those local communities, and they see a need for certain things that might be relevant specifically to that hospital to get something that is going to help them do what they do.

Andrew:
The Toowoomba Hospital Foundation is exactly like that, and according to their website, since their inception, the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation has gifted more than $11 million to the Toowoomba Hospital, Baillie Henderson Hospital and Mount Lofty Heights Nursing Home. It’s to lead better outcomes and opportunities for the staff, patients and their families. To have a chat about that, we have Alison Kennedy on the line. Alison, how are you?

Alison Kennedy:
Very well, thank you. Good morning. It’s a beautiful day in Toowoomba.

Andrew:
Terrific. Absolutely is. We also have Darrel Nicholson, he’s a Toowoomba advocate. He’s on the line and he wants to have a chat with you, Alison. Daryl, how are you?

Daryl Nicholson:
Doing well, Andrew. Thank you again for your time. Alison, I really do appreciate your time with the podcast today, and speaking of beautiful day, it’s a crack of a day [inaudible 00:01:08] at the moment, getting back into Spring. Allison thank you for coming on the show. Toowoomba Hospital Foundation was founded in 1989, and I must admit about four or five years ago, I got a little bit sick and I have to use the base hospital, and I’d known Rookas had been doing a lot of work up there for a long time. You took over from Peter Rookas in 2016. Tell us about your journey, how you came to this beautiful city and running the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation.

Alison Kennedy:
How long have you got? My husband actually was coming backwards and forwards to Toowoomba often and just loved the city itself, and he was very passionate about moving to the country and I was always like, there is no way I’m moving to the country. You’re never going to get me in the country. Then, I was looking for a new career opportunity and came across this amazing role and next minute, here we are. I was in tears, actually. I remember when the lady rang me and said, congratulations, you’ve got the role I was in absolute tears.

Alison Kennedy:
I think one of things I was nervous of taking over from somebody from 23 years of their career, and moving away from family and friends of the community that we lived in up in the Redcliffe Peninsula, but it’s been the most amazing move for my family. Even the big boys were just saying the other day how much they just love being in Toowoomba and what it’s given them as far as new prospects and family and new friends, et cetera. It’s just been extraordinary, terrific place to be.

Andrew:
Allison Kennedy, you’re the CEO of Toowoomba Hospital Foundation. Can you tell the community what is it when you have a foundation? Hospitals are seen to be heavily funded by government. What is it that the foundation can do or does do for these hospitals up in the Toowoomba area that government can’t do?

Alison Kennedy:
Sure. There’s always a budget downloaded every year, and the hospitals are given what they can and can’t spend. There’s definitely a huge gap between what they get and what they need. That’s where the hospital foundation steps in. We work very closely with the board of the Darling Downs Health Service. We have a fantastic supportive board ourselves. Each month, we get together and discuss where the pressure points are in the hospital.

Alison Kennedy:
I know at the moment, emergency department on average, we used to see about 110 people through the doors and over Christmas we’re up to about 215. At the moment, the emergency department is really feeling the pinch of looking after our community. That’s when we step in to say, right, let’s do some funding. We call it for purpose funding. We’ll run events, we’ll do some campaigns, we’ll get some workplace giving happening and really support what they need. Often, it will either be a new space, new beds, new equipment. We’ve given up to $1 million in the past for MRIs. It’s just whatever the hospital really knows that it’s going to fall behind that line of what the government is going to give them and where we can step in and really, really assist the people of our community.

Daryl Nicholson:
Alison, in 2019, I was reading an article, a record of over $1 million raised in fundraising and donations from the Toowoomba community. I mentioned that’s pretty good for you on the weekends with the many events you got to go to. I see you out and about all the time so how do you manage all that?

Alison Kennedy:
I think you just do, and I think the old saying of, if you love what you do, it’s not work. I get up every morning feeling extremely blessed to be doing what I’m doing. We have an amazing team here who all have an individual role to play, but as a team come together each week to pull together what we do. And you’re right, we have 76 events from June 30 to July 1 this year. We’re just streaming our way through them and new things pop up all the time.

Alison Kennedy:
The exciting thing is the foundation has a very, very supportive commercial business. We have the car park and the coffee shop and we’ve just opened up Baillie Henderson Cafe for the rehab unit and the patients over there and all the staff that are now working out of Baillie. That’s really exciting. With a strong commercial base, it means that 100% of the donations that are made to the foundation go directly to the cause. We do not spend a single cent on our wages, on the administration. Anything from the community, it is all gifted to the unit in which it was funded out for. That’s a really unique point of difference to most charities.

Andrew:
Alison Kennedy so being a CEO for the period of time that you’ve been, and you’ve said that you’re blessed to do what you do, what are some of the outcomes, the more personal outcomes that you’ve witnessed while you’ve been in a position?

Alison Kennedy:
It probably all comes down to the team that we’ve built, and I think the transparency in the marketplace of who we are and what our purpose is and what we do and the achievements each year. For me personally, when I started, we lived in a tiny little house up on Joy Street. We’ve now moved into a big two story building. We went from four and a half staff to 10. We’re running accommodation, we’ve got the car park, we’ve got two coffee shops now. We have seen a lot of growth in the last four years. That’s by having a very enthusiastic team that comes on my crazy journey. There’s no, we don’t need to sleep, we’ll do that later, let’s keep moving. We’ve had huge growth and it’s all really, really exciting.

Alison Kennedy:
It obviously gives opportunity for us to build our team and employ more people and be able to give others… We get a door knocked down every turn for kids to come and do work experience for us with our events or marketing, et cetera. It’s a great feeling for me personally to think, somebody had to lead that charge, but at the same time, I found really good people to come on the journey and to see the growth and to see the statistics.

Alison Kennedy:
This year we’ll give over $2 million back to the health service and then some. We’ll look more around the 13 million mark now of gifting back. This year alone, we’ll probably raise 1.3, 1.4 through donations and fundraising from our community. All of those things, they make me pretty teary and pretty happy.

Daryl Nicholson:
Speaking about being teary, Alison, I’ll read your quote, “No day is ever the same.” You said you teared up when you got the job at the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation, but on Thursday the 8th of November, Alison you’re announced as the Business Woman of the Year for the Downs. Tell us about how invigorating that was and how that made you feel.

Alison Kennedy:
I think it’s always exciting to be nominated for things such as, the Darling Downs Business Woman of the Year. Like everybody, most people, you don’t go to work to get the accolades. I’m really fortunate that I just feel blessed to come to work and to be able to do the stuff that we do, and it’s pretty exciting. Every day is different. I cry at everything, every speech, every moment in time, I cry. I’m known for crying, but it’s because I really feel after many years of doing lots of different roles and positions and stuff, this is really where I was meant to be. I think that in itself is exciting and it allows everybody to feel the passion and want to come on the journey.

Alison Kennedy:
This year alone, next year, everything is just going to continue to grow and we’ve got lots of great aspirations. We’re opening up the Darling Downs Health Museum, hopefully in the next 12 months, as well, which will be a nationally recognised museum full of artefacts from both Baillie Henderson and Toowoomba Hospital, and the outlying regional hospitals, as well, they all have small collections to contribute. Every day is different and every day we come up with something else creative that we’re going to bring to the community, so exciting times ahead.

Andrew:
Alison Kennedy, you mentioned the community. Do you need more of their support and if so, how would you like them to support you?

Alison Kennedy:
Great question, because the hospital itself, doesn’t matter how much money we raise, there’s always more things that we could contribute to them. Our community is growing. We are not a stagnant little town. People are moving to Toowoomba, and it is a great place to raise children. Unfortunately, with children and adults come accidents and sad things happen so our hospital will always need funding.

Alison Kennedy:
The other thing, the foundation has recently changed its strategic planning to actually look after all of the Darling Downs health region so all 22 hospitals within our region, and not that we’re going to go out to standup and start running events unfortunately because it’s the [inaudible 00:09:48] town, but we will definitely be looking after the bigger hospitals, and wherever they need us, we will try to assist those communities.

Alison Kennedy:
It’s twice the size of Tasmania, our region that the health service looks after. Constant help is always really appreciated. Workplace giving is something that I really encourage offices and businesses in Toowoomba to get involved in. We always need volunteers. If anyone ever wants to share some time with us, we love volunteers. Then, running events for us, it’s always great if somebody else is running an event through their own personal community groups and gifting the money to us. There’s plenty of ways, and we always just love talking to people and seeing what their passion is and tying it into what the foundation does.

Daryl Nicholson:
Outstanding. That’s excellent. 76 events this year, and I’m looking forward to the one at Rumours with Julie Bishop, Women of Strength. That’s a really great function, and unfortunately, I [inaudible 00:10:44] get the drag queen bingo, I assume you sold that out, and that’s going to quite big success I hear, next Saturday you said a week, I think.

Alison Kennedy:
The girls are like, we’re going to do some drag queen bingo. This is Toowoomba. [crosstalk 00:10:57].

Andrew:
You’re going to take us through this?

Alison Kennedy:
Extending the room and sold 250. [crosstalk 00:11:03] drag queen bingo might become a quarterly event for us with some high profile drag queens visiting Toowoomba. I think it’ll be fabulous.

Andrew:
Alison Kennedy

Daryl Nicholson:
I think you’re being creative and it’s really clever, and I’m loving the Toowoomba community, how they get together towards it, and the base hospital everyone takes their job seriously there and is accountable. I’ve been at [inaudible 00:11:21] and I’ve used surgery facilities up there three times and they’re really fantastic team up there. Thanks for your great work, Alison, and I’ll leave you to wrap up, Andrew.

Andrew:
Yeah. Allison Kennedy, thank you very much for your time. Look, if you want any more information Toowoombahospitalfoundation.org.au, check it out. There’s a couple of buttons there too that you can check out. If you do want to just give, maybe not wait for an event, hit the donate button. If you’re more interested in an event, like drag queen bingo, you can click on the events button. Allison Kennedy, thank you for spending some time with our listeners.

Alison Kennedy:
No, thank you for having us on board. It’s really appreciated. Thank you so much.