Kamloops’ Domtar pulp mill and its union are giving $1 million to Royal Inland Hospital’s patient-care tower now under construction on the property.
The announcement, made Friday outside the Ken Lepin Theatre in RIH, is a milestone donation for both groups.
The money is the largest-single donation Unifor has ever made and it’s the largest contribution Domtar has made to a hospital in Western Canada.
Domtar and Unifor will each donate $500,000 over the next five years, with the money going to the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation to help purchase equipment for the expanding hospital. The patient-care tower will add 287,000 square feet to the hospital, essentially doubling the footprint of the current facility.
“It’s not every day that a mill manager and a local union president have the opportunity to make a significant announcement for the community,” Kamloops Domtar mill manager Jean-Claude Allaire told a crowd gathered for a cheque presentation ceremony.
Royal Inland Hospital Foundation CEO, Heidi Coleman said the donation “gives us a big boost.”
Coleman said she approached Allaire with the $1 million request, which he took to his bosses, who came back with almost half that.
“Which was still a massive gift for Domtar, but he wanted the million,” Coleman said.
To achieve the goal, the union was approached and a partnership was formed.
Unifor Local 10-B president Rene Pellerin said his membership was unanimous in supporting the project.
“We are proud to be part of this partnership,” Pellerin told the crowd, noting there are many union members throughout the region who depend on the hospital.
The $1 million contribution from the two large organizations is one that’s being supported at the local level.
Unifor’s half of the donation will be spilt between the national union and Local 10-B, which is also the case for Domtar, with a portion of its funds coming from the corporate office and the rest from the mill on Mission Flats Road.
Allaire said contributing to the project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We’re not going to build a hospital every 40 years, so we want to be part of it,” he said, noting all the workers and their families are served by RIH at one time or another.
Scott Doherty Unifor executive assistant to the national president, described Friday’s announcement as an investment in the community and its workers in the region.
“This was a natural fit,” he said, noting it is the first time Unifor has partnered with an employer to make such a large donation.
In recognition of the contribution, Unifor and Domtar will have a nameplate in the new patient-care tower’s atrium — a space to be used for gatherings and special events — pending approval from the province.
Royal Inland Hospital Foundation is raising approximately $20 million to buy every single piece of equipment and some furnishings that will stock the $417-million patient-care tower.
The foundation is reaching out to large donors to contribute to the project. Kerri Priddle, the foundation’s board chair, said the contribution from Domtar and Unifor could inspire other large organizations to follow suit. Many Kamloops organizations have announced sizeable contributions to RIHF and the patient-care tower to date. In total, Warner Rentals, the Kelson Group, the Stollery Foundation, the Emsland Foundation, Unifor and Domtar have committed a total of $4.25 million.
The nine-storey patient-care tower is expected to open in 2022. It will include a new helipad, 100 private patient rooms, new operating rooms, a new mental-health and substance-abuse unit and a new neo-natal intensive care unit.
Unifor has nearly 800 members in the Kamloops area — including 350 Domtar employees. Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including employees in the newsroom, front office, pre-press and delivery areas of Kamloops This Week.