Finnegan selected as Foundation’s inaugural Distinguished Service Award winner

Inaugural award recipient Leo Finnegan. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)




A man that’s served this community so well for so many decades has been honoured the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation.

The Foundation presented an inaugural award to honour one of Princes Edward County’s most recognizable public figures on Thursday at The Regent Theatre in Picton.

The award was presented to an audience of close friends and family members of  Leo Finnegan who was named as the first recipient of the Leo Finnegan Distinguished Service Award (LFDSA).

(front) Leo and Maureen Finnegan sit happily with family members after the patriarch received and was named after the Leo Finnegan Distinguished Service Award on Thursday at The Regent Theatre. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)

The business accolades from his time as Plant Manager for 18 years at Lake Ontario Cement (Now Lehigh) would fill volumes. His terms as the Mayor of the County of Prince Edward exemplified unparalleled dedication and leadership to municipal governance.

But on Thursday, Finnegan was feted for his unwavering support of a cause near to his heart- the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital.  The ‘House of Healing’ has never had a better and more endeared friend than Leo Finnegan.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to formally recognize the achievements of one of the finest members of our foundation family, Leo Finnegan,” said Barbara McConnell, chairperson of the PECMHF. “I cannot think of a worthier recipient of this award than Leo. He has provided sustained service, unwavering commitment and philanthropic leadership to Quinte Health Care (QHC) PECMH and the community, and it is fitting that he has been selected to be honoured with this inaugural award…and that the award should be named in his honour. In our ever-changing world, this remarkable person has been a constant pillar in our community and a beacon for our County hospital and the values we hold dear.”

Inspired by its first recipient, The LFDSA will be presented to individuals who, through their ongoing loyalty, commitment, outstanding contribution, and service, have shown dedication to and support for the PECMHF and its vision, mission, and strategic imperatives and priorities.

“Leo’s passion for PEC is immense and its contagious,” said Shannon Coull, executive director of the PECMHF. “I’m so, so fortunate to be the Executive Director of the hospital foundation because it’s the best job in the world to be able to work with the board of directors that we have, our campaign cabinet members, our community volunteers, donors, families, it’s just amazing. The county is a beautiful place and we all become family.”

Finnegan was chosen to be recognized for the inaugural award because of his commitment and influential leadership to the PECMHF and other organizations in PEC.

“Leo has served in numerous capacities and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local organizations within Prince Edward County,” Coull expressed. “Leo has lived in The County since 1960 and knows that residents are passionate about the local hospital. He has worked tirelessly to keep the County hospital top of mind in the PEC community. He remains staunchly committed to the PECMH Foundation’s mission and mandate to raise the funds needed to facilitate the purchase of priority medical equipment, enabling improved patient care…the kind of patient care each of us wants and expects when we pass through the hospital doors. Around the board table, Leo remains focused on sound financial management and can often be heard saying, “is this raising us any money?”

Finnegan exemplified the word dedication when it came to preserving PECMH amid rounds of bed and service reductions after PECMH was amalgamated into a multi-site hospital structure under the QHC  brand.

As an ex officio member, Finnegan ran afoul of the QHC Board controllers more than once when PECMH beds or services were threatened in the annual pursestrings tug-of-wars at the financially beleaguered organization. So verbose and steadfast was Mayor Finnegan in his support of PECMH and the patients it served that, eventually, QHC was forced to abandon its former governance model that permitted mayors and wardens to serve as Board members.

But Finnegan never wavered in his support of a fully functional PECMH with a 24/7 Emergency Department and a critical mass of inpatient beds and services. His leadership rallied the county citizenry and when it came time to discuss financial matters within the corporation, any bean counter that glanced to the County’s hospital for potential savings would be warned to look elsewhere.

In the future, through the Leo Finnegan Distinguished Service Award, PECMHF will be able to acknowledge others who help the foundation achieve its mission across the region.“Leo is a shining example of the greatness that is innate to our County hospital,” said McConnell. “He has truly made lasting contributions to QHC PECMH and has helped to shape the future of health care delivery in Prince Edward County in ways that will continue to be felt for decades to come through his dedication to advancing the plans for our new hospital. On behalf of the PECMH Foundation, we congratulate Leo and thank him for everything he has done, and continues to do for our hospital. We are extremely grateful for Leo’s selfless efforts in service to our community. He is an invaluable asset to the foundation and our community.”

“I am very grateful for the honour bestowed upon me on this occasion by the PECMHF,” Leo Finnegan said. “That feeling is also accompanied by a sense of humility when I remember colleagues and coworkers in various organizations that I have been associated with in the past who would be worthy of receiving such a tribute. I accept this award remembering their contributions to the betterment of our hospital and community.”

“Leo’s leadership, dedication and commitment to excellence helped to cement the reputation of our County hospital as being one of the best rural hospitals in Ontario,” said McConnell. “His constant willingness to help and serve has benefited every corner of The County.”

Established in 2022, the Leo Finnegan Distinguished Service Award will be presented to a volunteer who has exhibited exceptional commitment and service to the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital and is selected by the PECMHF Board of Directors. Any volunteer, hospital staff member, hospital board or committee member, member of the community or third-party event organizer may be nominated. Nominations will be accepted from anyone within the hospital community. The award will not be automatically given each year, only in years when there is an exceptional person who fits the criteria.