SUDBURY -- A fundraising campaign for the expansion of a Manitoulin Island hospital got a big kick-start Thursday morning.

The Smith family foundation donated $1 million to the Manitoulin Health Centre's Mindemoya site's emergency department expansion and renovation.

"Emotions right now, a mix of tremendous joy, pride and also this is a moment where one thinks of legacy," said Lynn Foster, president and chief executive officer of the facility.

While the most significant yet, the donation is not the first by the Smith family, who own and operate Manitoulin Transport.

"This is the 60th anniversary for our company based here on Manitoulin Island," said Jeff Smith. "So we wanted to give back to the community, show our support for health care on the island so the timing couldn't have been better for us to give back."

Currently, the emergency room is a mere 1,900 square feet, often causing workflow issues.

"So currently right now, you'll see that the emergency department is quite small," said Julia Fedec, the clinical nurse manager for the hospital. "We are limited in space in terms of being able to house our patients, but also in our clinical environment for our staff to work productively and effectively, also while being able to manage patient confidentiality and privacy."

Adding 2,000 square feet

With the renovation, the hospital is hoping to add an additional 2,000 square feet.

"Our patients will definitely see a big difference in flow from the entrance to the hospital into the emergency department, where they'll have a bit more space in their individual rooms in the assessment phase, whether it’s the actual square footage," said Fedec. "But also being able to see changes in the equipment we're using, having more one-on-one care with the nursing team in a private environment that's not so close to their partners next door."

As part of the expansion, the hospital will add two separate treatment spaces. One will be a mental-health observation room and another will be for treatment of infectious diseases.

"We will now have a clear line of sight, our nursing station will be centrally located so for safety of our patients we'll have a clear line of sight within all of the rooms within the space," said Foster.

The project is set to get underway in April 2021, and is expected to be completed by December 2021.

While the donation is significant, it does not fund the project entirely, which is expected to cost a total of $5 million.

"We will also, as a fundraising team, start to be actively fundraising for this project," said Angela Becks, chair of the fundraising committee for the Manitoulin Health Centre. "So this is such a boost to give us incentive and momentum."

In addition to wanting to give back to the community, with the family company being based out of Gore Bay, Smith is hopeful it encourages others to donate, as well.

"It's really meant to get other businesses, residents, seasonal residents, the boaters, cottagers that come to Manitoulin to support this hospital," said Smith. "If they ever need it, if they ever need an emergency service of some sort they're going to be coming here and we would hope that they would be supportive of this cause."