St Vincent’s Good Samaritan Fund

Inspired by countless acts of personal generosity offered by our staff over the history of our hospital and fuelled by a desire to live out our Mission, St Vincent’s established the Good Samaritan Fund in late 2014.

The Fund is derived from staff financial contributions with an additional boost from the St Vincent’s Foundation Christmas Appeal in 2015.

It offers direct and immediate aid to patients facing serious hardship and disadvantage in cases where assistance is not possible through any other means.

It is overseen by the Director of Mission and supported by the Good Samaritan Fund Committee.

The Fund has soared to over $100,000 in just 15 months and has granted over $46,500 in aid to support the recovery, dignity and wellbeing of our most vulnerable patients.

Throughout St Vincent’s history there are countless examples of staff going above and beyond the call of duty to meet the needs of people facing exceptional hardship, be it arranging a favourite ‘last meal’ for a patient due to undergo tongue removal for cancer or buying a Christmas tree and presents for a young, terminally ill mother and her children so they could share one final, enjoyable Christmas together.

In 2015 we recognised both the growing need and potential to support staff in such acts of compassion. We were inspired by the Social Work team’s modest Samaritan Fund where, for many years, social workers contributed their own money to pay for limited but essential expenses for disadvantaged patients.

Now, the organisation-wide Good Samaritan Fund gives us a much enhanced capacity to encourage, support and celebrate staff whose spirit of care and generosity drives them to serve something greater.

 The Good Samaritan Fund is governed by a diverse committee with extensive clinical expertise and two members of the hospital’s executive team, chaired by the Director of Mission.

Members of the Good Samaritan Fund committee.

With strong governance as its foundation, the Fund aims to provide a responsive, swift, and flexible means of meeting the needs of our most vulnerable patients.

A unique aspect of the Good Samaritan Fund Committee’s approach is the Discernment Tool it uses to guide decision-making.

Based on Ignatian spirituality, it invites Committee members to consider how they can do the most good and to make decisions which are likely to bear the most fruit.

Decision-making is rigorous and thoughtful, but the Committee members look for every opportunity to ‘say yes’, and request further information when necessary.

The group may decide to fund all or part of an application or, on occasion, suggest additional or different types of support.

Applicants often attend meetings to speak in support of their request. All concerns and opinions are considered and the group seeks a consensus, rather than a majority, decision.

There are two broad funding categories. Staff can apply for:

  • a bulk, annual allocation of resources such as supermarket vouchers (for food or clothing) for their department or ward
  • a specific application on behalf of a patient.

The underlying principle is that the application process should be simple, quick, and flexible, with the Fund taking a ‘no wrong door’ approach to applications.

A short application form is at the centre of the process, but corridor conversations, telephone and email enquiries are all embraced to remove barriers and encourage staff to apply to the Fund on behalf of patients in need.

The Fund asks applicants to:

  • establish the case of vulnerability or hardship
  • ensure other sources of funding have been exhausted.

However, unlike many other forms of funding, the Good Samaritan Fund places no restriction on catchment zones, nor does it apply waiting lists or deadlines. Each application is ‘triaged’ for urgency.

Non-urgent applications are considered at monthly meetings while urgent requests are emailed to the Committee so same-day sign-off can be achieved.

The Fund’s ability to swiftly grant funds to meet the often urgent needs of our patients in a timely way is one of its greatest strengths.

 In its first 15 months, the Good Samaritan Fund has granted over $50,000 to patients:

  • 44 individual grants, for expenses such as medication costs, utility bills, whitegoods, cleaning costs, childcare and health equipment.
  • 351 food and clothing vouchers
  • 500 Christmas gift packs for inpatients facing isolation on Christmas Day. The packs contained Christmas treats, toiletries and warm wishes, seeking to offer hope and happiness.

Every month $3,390 flows into the Fund from a total of 249 staff contributors. Fortnightly contributions range from $1 to $80, with the average $6.80.

From its first month to today, the number of staff contributing to the fund has increased by approximately 70% (See Graph 1).  Total fortnightly contributions have increased by 82%.

With an additional boost from the St Vincent’s Foundation Christmas Appeal, the Fund balance currently sits at about $120,000 (See Graph 2).

The Good Samaritan Fund embodies the highest standards of patient-centred care, often addressing the social determinants of health and meeting the holistic needs of patients where other funds cannot.

Perhaps most pleasing is that the Fund has encouraged clinicians to have the permission to raise a voice for the needs of the voiceless.

It has been overwhelming to witness the Fund’s powerful call to compassion.

It has resonated in the hospital’s wider community and has also received donations totalling over $80,000 from professional bodies and a single fundraising appeal.

Plans are now in place to regularly participate in fundraising opportunities in collaboration with Foundation.

Just over a year ago, the Good Samaritan Fund was simply an idea. Today, it is a growing, sustainable, organisation-wide program which harnesses the collective compassion of its staff to support many vulnerable and often desperate patients and families.

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