Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As staff and residents of Liverpool and surrounding areas were lamenting the unprecedented temporary closures of the Queens General Hospital's emergency department, the Queens General Hospital Foundation (QGHF) had a historical announcement to make on another front.
In a July 12 news release, the foundation officially announced it had been bequeathed its largest donation ever -$4.8 million. The money was bequeathed by two former hospital patients, the late Tim and Diane Ledvina, an American couple who built a retirement home in Queens.
"You can imagine how grateful we are," QGHF chair Al Doucet said in an interview with LighthouseNOW. "It was given to the foundation with no strings attached and it was for the foundation to decide on how best to use it to benefit the community."
Diane died in March 2012, at the age of 62 after a long battle with cancer. Tim continued to be involved in the community until he became ill in December 2014 and died four months later at the age of 66. Both were under the care of staff at Queens General Hospital.
The donation was made upon Tim's death, however because the estate spanned international lines the process for the money to become available was lengthy and it wasn't completed until recently, according to Doucet.
To honour the couple's contribution, the foundation recently installed a custom-made sign on the front of a building located on hospital grounds, which is now named the Queens General Hospital Foundation Ledvina Building. The building, which the QCHF purchased in 2020, previously was used for a family practice. It now serves a variety of functions for the hospital.
In the media release, Tom Ledvina, Tim's twin, said it was important to his brother to make a contribution that would benefit the community.
"He could see how important the hospital was to the local community. So that's what motivated the gift," he said, adding that Tim was especially grateful for the level of care Diane had received at the hospital. "He wanted to preserve that access to good, quality, local health care."
In the back of the husband's and wife's minds was also the support they received from the community, according to Tom, who said it was beyond what they would have expected.
"That's pretty extraordinary in my mind. It shows how they really became part of the community."
Tim was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio State University. He began work in the auto industry as an engineer with Morse Chain, a division of BorgWarner, an automotive parts supplier. He retired from his position as chief engineer for Morse Chain in 2010, after 30 years with more than 30 patents to his credit.
Diane was born in Salamanca, New York, where she attended Cornell University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She spent time in Alaska as a lab technician and later returned to Ithaca, New York, where she had a 30-year career with a company called Dairy One, an agricultural consulting and managing firm. She was also president of the local Farm Bureau chapter and treasurer of the Holstein Club.
The couple resided in Ithaca, New York.
They fell in love with the Liverpool area when they had travelled to Nova Scotia on vacation and decided they wanted to retire in the area.
In 2005, as part of their retirement plans, they purchased some land in Western Head and began construction on a new home which was completed the following year. Diane stayed to oversee the construction of the new home until Tim retired and moved to their new home full-time in 2010.
Both quickly became involved in the community. They were parishioners at St. Gregory's Church and worked with the SPCA. Tim was part of the Kiwanis and Diane volunteered with Queens General Hospital, the Queens Food Bank and the Thomas Raddall Library.
According to the news release, both had to work through some physical challenges during their lifetime which had brought them together. Tim suffered from cataracts early in his life and, despite surgery, he continued to have severe vision issues. Early in her life, Diane had a farming accident and lost most of her right arm.
Doucet reported that their donation funds have been invested and money will be used as and when needed for the numerous ongoing projects of which the foundation is a part.
According to the QGHF's website, the foundation is governed by an 11-person volunteer board of trustees. It was established in 1988 when changes in the provincial health system saw the governance of hospitals move away from community-based boards of directors. Its mandate is to ensure continued financial support for Queens General Hospital and quality health care for the community.
In 2014, the foundation contributed $7.5 million towards modernizing the hospital.
Other recent projects included the purchase of the former medical clinic on its grounds, renovation to accommodate a new digital X-ray machine, a $60,000 revamp of the hospital's cafeteria, new power blood collection chairs, a new floor cleaner and polisher. As well, over the past 10 years the foundation has purchased more than $500,000 worth of equipment for the rehabilitation department.
The foundation has also been involved in the hospital's efforts at recruiting doctors and nurses, an ongoing priority as well as a challenge. It's the shortage of physicians in the emergency department that had led to its closure for periods of time on July 12 and 13. Although other South Shore hospitals have had to curtail emergency services on occasion, it's the first time ever that the services were temporarily halted at Queens General.