Interviewed by Angus MacCaull

As a community-based brokerage, we value the volunteer spirit. Our President, Wayne Ezekiel, embodies this spirit with his tireless dedication to groups across our region. On any given evening or weekend you might find him fighting for a cure for MS or cancer, celebrating our sports and culture, or supporting a local Chamber of Commerce—always with a big smile.

Since 2016, Wayne has put some of his incredible energy into the St. Martha’s Hospital Foundation. He shared some of the Foundation’s activities with me recently after Hospital Help Day.

INTERVIEWER

How did you get involved with the St. Martha’s Foundation?

EZEKIEL

It was Greg Hull, actually, that got me involved. He was on the board and saw that a couple of other people were stepping off. So Greg put my name forward to Shannon Stevenson on the nominating committee. And one day at the gym when I was working out Shannon asked me if I would like to be involved.

INTERVIEWER

And you’re the Chair now?

EZEKIEL

I was on the board for about two years, and then, Joe McDonald, who was the Chair, asked me if I’d be interested in taking over as Chair of the Foundation. And, so he convinced me that it was, uh, it was an easy job to do …

INTERVIEWER

[Laughs]

EZEKIEL

I said I’d give it a try as long as he would stay on for one year as the Past Chair.

INTERVIEWER

Your involvement has coincided with the launch of a large capital campaign. Can you tell me about that?

EZEKIEL

Not long ago the amount of money that we had in our endowment fund was 3.5 million dollars. As a comparison, the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow has about a 60 million dollar fund. And the government has curtailed spending significantly when it comes to equipment. Our capital campaign is to raise money for our endowment fund so that when our hospital needs a new piece of equipment, there’s money there to buy it.

INTERVIEWER

Right.

EZEKIEL

If we don’t have equipment here so that we can perform procedures, then we lose our specialists over time. And eventually we lose our Regional Hospital status. So we realized that “Hey, we’ve gotta build this endowment fund, so we can spend money to keep our hospital modern and be able to attract new recruits and keep them in our town, in our community.”

INTERVIEWER

What’s the goal for the campaign?

EZEKIEL

Twenty million by 2026. We’re at 80% of our target. The major push now is retention of people. It’s the nurturing of programs like planned giving.

INTERVIEWER

Was yesterday’s event connected to the campaign?

EZEKIEL

Not directly. Yesterday was Hospital Help Day, which was started by Kenny Farrell in 1993. The radio station XFM sells raffle tickets for prizes. We had five prizes up for grabs. Four thousand dollars in cash. One thousand dollars in cash. A winter package. A trip to Las Vegas with spending money. And a local shopping spree in Antigonish with over two thousand dollars in gift cards. When you called in to make your pledge, you said, “Yeah, I want my money to go in one bucket.” Or, “I want it evenly split over all five buckets.” Right?

INTERVIEWER

Oh, nice. Nice. What was the winter package?

EZEKIEL

The winter package was a set of winter tires, a snowblower, a baby barn and a thousand dollars worth of crude oil.

INTERVIEWER

Wow.

EZEKIEL

Every year we buy a specific piece of equipment with the funds from Hospital Help Day. This year it was a piece of ophthalmological equipment. It will allow the ophthalmologists to measure the thickness of cataracts, so they can do a better job of surgery. And to be able to measure more exactly the size of the lens they’re going to put in to replace the one they take out. It reduces the amount of time it takes them to do the diagnostics, and improves the end goal for the patient.

INTERVIEWER

I guess they are seeing, with our older population, a good number of cataract surgeries requested?

EZEKIEL

Absolutely. And they don’t have an ophthalmologist in New Glasgow, and only two in all of Cape Breton. So they’re trying to turn Antigonish into a centre of excellence for ophthalmology.

INTERVIEWER

That’s smart, if there’s a larger gap in service.

EZEKIEL

Yes. And it definitely helps keep our regional status, which is becoming more and more important. Our local hospital has lost a lot of its autonomy because of the new provincial health services structure.

INTERVIEWER

Right.

EZEKIEL

And they’re having a struggle recruiting and retaining doctors. This is not a new issue in the province, but they’ve never had it at St. Martha’s because of the quality of the hospital. The feeling of comradery within the hospital. But now they’re a bit demoralized because their specialists are leaving, and they’re working extra time themselves. We lost an obstetrician recently, and now we’re down to two.

INTERVIEWER

Mm-hmm.

EZEKIEL

And one of those is ready to retire. So, we’ve got two older people trying to cover what three people do. And if one of those happens to get sick or break a leg or something … Dr. Amit was saying it’s possible that we might have to send people to other hospitals to have their babies. And if we don’t recruit more family doctors in the next three, four months we may have to start closing the ER for certain periods.

INTERVIEWER

Wow.

EZEKIEL

So we’re trying to talk more with the town and county as well as doctors from the hospital and the Nova Scotia Health Authority. And the role I think we’re going to see ourselves taking a little more as board members is as advocates for the staff at St. Martha’s. Advocacy is coming up as a big priority. Because we’re voters too. We need to talk to our MLA Randy Delorey as the Minister of Health and Wellness to help us fix this problem.

Wayne Ezekiel interviewed on XFM for St. Martha's Foundation Hospital Help Day
Wayne on the air with XFM