TORONTO — Montreal natives Charlotte, 77, and Lewis Steinberg, 81, have donated what is believed to be the largest gift by individual donors to a community hospital in Canadian history.
The Steinbergs, who have lived in Toronto since 1978, have contributed $12 million to North York General Hospital’s $150-million fundraising initiative, which will support facility upgrades, new technologies and equipment, research and education, as well as emerging priorities.
The Steinbergs’ gift will go toward the redevelopment of the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency unit, the establishment of the Steinberg Family Acute Care Unit, and the purchase of a new CT scanner.
An earlier donation to the same campaign went toward purchasing three digital mammography machines for the BMO Financial Group Breast Diagnostic Centre, establishing the Karen, Heather & Lynn Steinberg Breast Services facility, in honour of the couple’s three daughters. They also have six grandchildren.
The south tower of the hospital, facing Highway 401, will also be renamed the Steinberg Family Tower.
The Steinbergs’ previous gifts to the hospital include the renovation and naming of the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency unit in 2001, the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer Clinic in 1998, critical equipment for the ear, nose and throat department in 2003, sentinel lymph node biopsy equipment for the detection of breast cancer in 1999, and electromyogram equipment used to diagnose neurological problems in 2001.
North York General is one of the country’s busiest community hospitals. In 2010/2011, it treated 28,830 patients and 218,701 outpatients, and the emergency department received 113,583 visits.
The hospital serves one of Canada’s most diverse communities and socioeconomic areas, and has the country’s highest population of elderly patients.
Harold Heft, the hospital’s executive vice-president of philanthropy and communications, said that among patients declaring their religion, 15 to 20 per cent said they were Jewish.
Lewis Steinberg – whose grandmother, Ida, started the Steinberg supermarket chain with one grocery store in Montreal in 1917 and saw her sons expand it into Quebec’s largest, with a strong presence in Ontario as well – said that his family has been connected to North York General since they moved here and Charlotte needed surgery.
“We were happy with the care she received. Staff was compassionate and understanding, and they answered all our questions. We could see that the other patients felt the same way. I told [Charlotte], ‘We should support the hospital.’”
They went to the hospital foundation, and decided that they would donate funds to help underwrite the program to test for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast cancer.
“Cancer is a family disease, because it affects the whole family. The program needed [help with the cost of] psychologists and social workers,” which is where they directed their gift, Lewis said.
Whenever the couple makes a donation, he said, they like to see results. “It makes us feel good to meet the doctors and staff in programs [we’re funding].”
Charlotte, who is from Brockville, Ontario and was formerly an X-ray technician at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, said that North York General is a “real community hospital, and we want to ensure its highest standards.”
The Steinbergs, who belong to Beth Sholom Synagogue, also donated $1 million to Baycrest to help support the centre’s recently opened Charlotte and Lewis Steinberg Slow Stream Rehabilitation Centre.
Charlotte said her parents, Ernie and Fannie Schneiderman, from Brockville, Ont., and in-laws, Anne and Nathan Steinberg, all believed in giving to the community.
“As soon as we moved here, we got involved, and we hope that other people in the community will follow our example.”