An $8.5-million series of gifts from the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Family Foundation to Cambridge Memorial, Grand River, St. Mary’s General hospitals and the South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) profoundly strengthened their ability to respond quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. The gifts and Mike Lazaridis’ personal help improved their ability to respond to future emergencies in Waterloo Region and southern Grey and Bruce counties.
“We didn’t even have to ask,” said Ron Gagnon, President and CEO of Grand River Hospital in Kitchener regarding the gift. “In late February, before any of our communities had experienced their first confirmed cases of COVID-19, Mike Lazaridis was in contact with us. He was keenly aware of the health care system challenges that were about to unfold. It was clear that not only did he hope to help with immediate needs but also to set us up for success in the future. These gifts allowed us to move quickly to implement the plans we had been preparing and act proactively.”
All four hospitals expanded capacity to prepare for unprecedented numbers of patients in a way that kept staff and physicians safe. “Knowing we had the additional financial support at the outset allowed our teams to think in a less constrained way,” said Lee Fairclough, President of St. Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener. “When planning for additional space for very sick patients at our hospitals we needed to think big and creatively. Having this financial support allowed us to move our planning forward and proactively acquire the necessary equipment including beds, ventilators, laboratory testing equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) for our physicians and staff. These equipment purchases will serve patients and the community over the long term.”
The work in southern Grey Bruce, where SBGHC has four sites, poses a unique challenge. “We have expanded our capacity across all of our sites with the support we’ve received from the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Family Foundation,” said Michael Barrett, President and CEO of SBGHC. “We are also grateful for the doors Mike has opened for us and the opportunity to work more closely with the innovation sector and hospitals in the Region of Waterloo.”
The urgency of the COVID-19 response has pushed hospitals to try new approaches to everyday and emerging challenges – from pharmacy teams developing new and safer approaches to medication preparation in order to reduce the need for scarce N95 masks, to using newly developed software to manage the screening of staff at their doors, to working with local companies to develop new supply chains for PPE. “Taking risks isn’t something often associated with hospitals,” said Patrick Gaskin, President and CEO of Cambridge Memorial Hospital. “The Lazaridis family’s gift and Mike’s encouragement and connections opened up the opportunity to try new and innovative approaches to solving problems. Our communities will benefit from what we’ve been able to do long after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.”
When asked about what moved them to support these particular hospitals, Mike Lazaridis, CoFounder of Quantum Valley Investments in Waterloo replied: “Ophelia and I wanted to help our community at this time of urgent need and make sure our hospitals and healthcare workers had the ability to prepare early. We’re pleased to have this opportunity to enable, and to witness, the passion and innovative spirit of the staff and physicians at these hospitals. I am also so proud of the entrepreneurs in the Region of Waterloo and how they have stepped forward and worked with our hospitals and health care workers to create new supply chains and solutions to keep patients and providers safe.”
“The Lazaridis’ have provided much more than a financial gift,” said Gagnon on behalf of all four hospital leaders. “Mike has helped to open doors to contacts and supply chains around the world, created bridges to the tech and innovation sector and has freely provided his wealth of insight and experience. As a result, work and patient care are safer in these unprecedented times.”