In what is likely the first big step in the multi-million dollar capital expansion of Northern Ontario's largest hospital, Health Sciences North (HSN) in Sudbury revealed today that the Fielding and Purdue family has donated $10 million to the Northern Cancer Foundation.
The private donation was billed as “historic” by the hospital.
In addition to that, the combined foundations at HSN revealed Monday that another $9 million has been accumulated and will be part of the overall contribution to that multi-year effort.
The Fielding-Purdue donation was announced as part of a special event held at the hospital Monday morning, attended by hospital board members and administrators from across Northeastern Ontario. There was also a video-taped message from Premier Doug Ford expressing his thanks to the family for contributing the largest ever single donation to a Northern Ontario hospital.
In honour of the donation, the cancer centre has been renamed the Shirley and Jim Fielding Northeast Cancer Centre. HSN said the donation was made on behalf of Craig Fielding and his wife Katrina Ruotsalo, Murray Fielding, Gerry Perdue and his children, Jason, Cameron and Angela.
The first speaker of the day was HSN president and CEO Dominic Giroux, who made reference to the fact that the original plan for 600 beds at HSN was cut back by roughly 30 per cent to 412 beds by the Queen's Park Liberals in 2004. Giroux said since then, it has been a priority to expand HSN.
"You've probably heard me say a few times over the years that HSN was built too small. This is why the very first outcome in our 2019-2024 strategic plan of HSN and of the Health Sciences North Research Institute is to begin implementing a capital plan to address our space needs so that we can provide the care that northerners deserve," Giroux said.
Donor and family member Craig Fielding agreed with the concern over the number of beds at the hospital.
"Northerners know that HSN is built too small and that's a big problem. We're all getting older and that will put more pressure on HSN. When we heard about HSN plans to increase the number of beds and expand services for kids and mental health and addictions patients we knew we had to help. Our family has strong ties to HSN and to the Northeast Cancer Centre."
Craig Fielding said his father Jim Fielding died of cancer in 2000. Another family member, Cameron Purdue, said his mother died of cancer in 2014.
Purdue added that everyone in the North is just an arm's length away from someone who had needed hospital care.
"Northern Ontario is home to our family, and we want to help to make sure HSN is going to be able to provide that care to all of us Northerners in the future," Purdue said.
Also speaking was HSN board of directors representative Tom Laughren, who is currently the Fire Chief in the City of Timmins, and a former mayor of Timmins.
Laughren noted that the donation was important in the sense that HSN has more than 30 per cent of all its patients coming from outside of Sudbury. He said this also accounts for more than half of all the patients at the cancer centre are from across Northeastern Ontario and more than 50 per cent of all cardiology patients are from outside of Sudbury.
"This historic donation today honoring the memory of Shirley and Jim Fielding will go a long way to help HSN achieve its goals of expanding to meet the growing needs of our patients from across this vast region. And we want to make sure that the legacy of Shirley and Jim Fielding lives on long into the future," Laughren said.
Giroux said he could not commit to details of the capital expansion plan, but did add that in the five-year strategic plan, the hope was that work could begin in 2024.
"We don't control the timing of the process and of each step of the five stage capital planning and approval process. What you're referring to is my comment from our strategic plan. So when the strategic plan of HSN was launched in early 2019, the hope was that by 2024, we would begin implementation of the new capital master plan, reducing a number of sites providing more bed spaces and also more space for mental health and addictions and for NEO Kids," Giroux explained.
He added that the process is underway, but it will take time.
"And we are at stage one of a five-stage capital planning and approval process. We are working closely with the Ministry of Health, with the support from Ontario Health to get to the stage of planning approval. And then every stage obviously, there's more refinement that is being done to the plans, and to the forecasting. But today is a very exciting day to have such a major private contribution to our capital redevelopment," Giroux said.
"It certainly signals the importance of the need. And we're confident this will help build momentum in terms of future fundraising."
Len Gillis covers mining and health care for Sudbury.com.