Jim Pattison donates millions to Royal Jubilee Hospital

The name of one of B.C.’s best-known entrepreneurs has been permanently attached to Royal Jubilee Hospital after he made on Tuesday the largest-ever health care donation on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver-based billionaire Jim Pattison will donate up to $5 million to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation to support its Building Care Together campaign — a fund established two years ago to raise $25 million for new equipment for the new patient care tower at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

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After Pattison’s identity was made public at a ceremony at Royal Jubilee, a sign was unveiled naming the ground-floor lobby of the patient care tower the Jim Pattison Atrium and Concourse.

Pattison, owner of the Jim Pattison Group operating companies including Save-on-Foods, auto dealers and radio stations, said his family has a long history of visiting friends on Vancouver Island every other Christmas, so he was happy to help.

“[Royal Jubilee] as I understand it, is the main hospital on Vancouver Island,” he said. “So the more we can do to help the better.”

Pattison’s gift comes as a matching donation. The Jim Pattison Foundation will donate a matching dollar for every dollar raised from other donors to the Building Care Together fund.

Until Tuesday, the fund was sitting at $13.4 million. After the announcement of Pattison’s gift it was revealed the fund now sits at just over $18 million.

Melanie McKenzie, executive director of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation, said the group has already raised $2.5 million to match Pattison’s gift, making for an additional $5 million.

The rest of Pattison’s gift is dependent on other donors. McKenzie said she is confident the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and Vancouver Island residents are up to the challenge. “We are up to it,” she said. “Our community is definitely up to it.”

She said the economy has made fundraising difficult, but the $570-million, 500-bed patient care tower, completed in 2010, has made it easier to convince donors of the worth of purchasing the best equipment.

Dr. Brendan Carr, acting president of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, said the new building makes Royal Jubilee the largest hospital on Vancouver Island, with a staff of about 5,000 and seeing 90,000 patients a year.

So secret was Pattison’s identity prior to the announcement that Saanich sign-maker Jeff Furneaux, owner of Urban Sign, was forced to work behind a screen to install the sign over the atrium. This meant he didn’t get a good look at his work until the announcement.

“Normally when you put up a sign, you like to stand back and take a look at it,” Furneaux said.

The largest previous donation to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation was $4 million made in 2008 by the estate of William Neill, for whom the medical imaging department was named.

rwatts@timescolonist.com 

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