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Shawn Kimel and Kate Schatzky have donated $21-million to help Sinai Health transform its intensive care unit.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

When a 2017 bike accident left Shawn Kimel with a severe brain injury, the Toronto businessman learned first hand the critical need for intensive care units.

His experience inspired Mr. Kimel and his partner Kate Schatzky to give $21-million to Sinai Health for a number of initiatives, including $10-million for new space in the ICU, which will more than double in size and receive 20 new beds. The expansion will also increase the size of rooms and include six isolation rooms.

The unit will be called the Kimel Schatzky Intensive Care Unit.

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Mr. Kimel, who was treated at Sunnybrook hospital, received exceptional care during his stay, Ms. Schatzky said, and the couple want to ensure other patients have as good an experience. His treatment helped them learn the importance of “human connection” in patient care, she added.

Doctors would do 20-plus-hour surgeries, “and they still stopped to take the time to check in on how Shawn was doing,” she said.

All the relationships they had in the hospital – nurses, personal support workers and cleaners – made a huge difference. “People who have not had the privilege to have that type of experience don’t quite understand how special the people are that work within these walls,” she said.

“In a strong society, you take care of your young and you take care of your old, but the key is to provide compassionate and individualized care to all,” Mr. Kimel said in an e-mail.

Funding for the ICU expansion will also include new technology, an educational and training skills lab, and new family consultation and visitor support rooms.

In addition, $11-million of the couple’s donation will fund various research programs.

Christie Lee, interim site director for the ICU at Mount Sinai Hospital, said the larger spaces will help accommodate family members and caregivers. The donation has been something positive after “a very tough year for everybody who works at the hospital,” she said.

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Ms. Schatzky said that the quality of the ICU experience can contribute greatly to a patient’s recovery. Removing communication barriers, taking time off work and having loved ones there to support you, are all benefits that she and Mr. Kimel want others to have.

Historically, Ontario hospitals have had to work at or near full capacity in areas such as critical or acute care and typically experience surges during times such as flu season, said Gary Newton, president and CEO of Sinai Health. This is where strategies such as transferring patients to another hospital come into play.

But Dr. Newton said the pandemic has demonstrated the need to modernize hospitals and that “a boost of capacity in a major academic downtown Toronto hospital is a much needed infusion into the system.”

Hospitals are often built with one purpose in mind, but that can change and different needs develop over time, he said. Finding new uses for old spaces at this stage is planning for the next pandemic.

“These are incredibly trying and emotional times for [front line workers],” Dr. Newton said. “It’s not a cliché when I say that they’re likely super excited because they see how much better the care they’re going to deliver will be for patients.”

Editor’s note: A previously published version of this story incorrectly said that Shawn Kimel was treated after his cycling accident at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was actually treated at Sunnybrook Hospital.

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