::The Canadian Jewish News
TORONTO — Canadian donations to Israel’s Meir Medical Center are having a major impact on the hospital and building ties with the Canadian medical establishment.
The Canadian Friends of Meir Medical Center has raised more than $2 million for the centre since 2010. It was established as a charitable foundation in 2006.
In a recent interview, Arie Raif, the foundation’s president, told The CJN he’s extremely touched by of the increasing generosity of Canadian donors.
“It’s incredible. And it’s not just Jews who give to the hospital. Because [the centre] treats people of all denominations,” non-Jews in Canada and across the world see it as a worthwhile cause, he said.
Raif noted that the Meir Medical Center is now about the size of Toronto’s renowned Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre campus and is “receiving a level of recognition” on par with Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
“Not that we’re in competition with either of those hospitals,” he added, praising each as “fantastic institutions.”
Meir Medical Center, a teaching hospital in Kfar Saba, just north of Tel Aviv, serves nearly one million people, Arabs and Jews, each year.
It’s associated with the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and is known for its advances in the fields of cancer research, diabetes, orthopedic surgery, geriatric care and head and neck surgery.
The hospital is also in the midst of a fundraising campaign to expand its pediatric services by building upon its children’s hospital and increasing capacity for its pediatric surgical wards.
Three doctors from the centre were part of a seven-member Israel Defence Forces medical field unit that was first on scene after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which devastated most of Port-au-Prince.
They helped the unit perform 319 surgeries and deliver 16 babies during the rescue effort.
Partnerships between Canadian hospitals and doctors and with Meir Medical Center are on the rise, said Raif.
Some of these include ongoing joint research projects between researchers at SickKids, the University of Western Ontario and Meir Medical Center.
Raif said he continues to approach Canadian hospitals to advance more collaboration on behalf of the centre.
He said plans are also in the works to train Canadian doctors in Meir Medical Center’s intensive care unit as part of an exchange program that could start as early as 2013.
“When it comes to quality of medicine and care, there’s a lot to learn from Canada,” Raif said.
One of the centre’s major development projects is the building of a 25,000-square-foot orthopedic wing that will service the nation’s young and aging populations. It’s expected to cost around 214 million shekels (roughly $60 million Canadian).
According to the centre, Israel’s population is expected to hit more than 9.5 million people by 2024, with an estimated 1.5 million elderly citizens.
“We’re asking the Canadian public to help complete this project in addition to the children’s wing,” Raif said.
The centre is also working on a joint initiative with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael -Jewish National Fund to build a children’s park near the facility, he said.
“Meir Medical Center is spreading its wings in Canada to a degree we didn’t foresee,” Raif said. “We don’t know why it’s happening. Maybe hard work, luck… but all I can say is todah, thank you, Canada.”
On April 28, 2013, the centre will award its Medal of Merit at a gala dinner in Toronto to four prominent Canadian couples who’ve demonstrated “hard work; dedication to improving our social environment; extraordinary compassion and generosity, and an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of others.”
Honorees for the evening will be federal Liberal party interim leader Bob Rae and his wife, Arlene Perly-Rae, Ana and Leslie Dan, Toby and Saul Feldberg, and Gemma and Sam Primucci, owners of the Pizza Nova takeout restaurant chain.
Rae is the evening’s scheduled keynote speaker.
Staff from Meir Medical Center is also scheduled to attend the fundraising event.
For more information, visit www.meirfriends.com.