Revelations that the Canadian Cancer Society will need to raise an additional $400,000 annually in order to operate Daffodil Place - a new 24-room hostel for those travelling to St. John's for cancer treatment - are being greeted with disbelief by Dr. Pradip Ganguly, a noted cancer specialist.
"That is a massive amount of money," Ganguly said Monday.
Ganguly said it's proof that all is not well with the society's Newfoundland division.
He described the figure as a huge subsidy - more than $16,000 per room - for an organization that depends on the goodwill and generosity of the half a million residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"I was absolutely floored," he said of the amount.
Dr. Maria Mathews, the volunteer president of the board of directors, released the figure last week. She acknowledged the society is financially strained, and is embarking on a "new era" with a renewed focus.
But she expressed confidence the society was on solid ground, and was meeting its commitments, both locally and at the national level.
Ganguly, a former board president with the cancer society, lobbed some fiery criticism at the not-for-profit organization in an article that appeared in The Weekend Telegram, setting off an emotional public debate among those who support the more than $7-million Daffodil Place and those who say it is too extravagant.
Ganguly and board officials confirmed Monday they will meet in the coming days to discuss the concerns raised by Ganguly.
An official with the society said Mathews would not be commenting.
Ganguly, chief of radiation oncology with Eastern Health, said the society strayed from its core values by undertaking a massive project like Daffodil Place.
He also described a provincial lottery staged last year by the society as a "financial disaster" that unnecessarily put donor money at risk.
Mathews said the lottery had a more than $300,000 shortfall, with the loss being shared by the society and its partner, the VOCM Cares Foundation. There was no insurance on the lottery.
Ganguly said it's obvious the $25 daily fee charged to users of Daffodil Place is insufficient.
"Somebody didn't crunch their numbers for what ideally the numbers should be," he said.
Mathews said last week the operation is under review, including the daily rate.
"We want to make sure Daffodil Place is still affordable. But we also want to make sure that it's fair and we're covering the cost of running the operation," Mathews said.
Despite his concerns, Ganguly is confident the society can be righted.
"I think if they don't play with words and they come clean and show exactly what changes they've made, I think so. There are a lot of good people who had no voice before. So I think, yes, there are a lot of good volunteers there. No doubt they can come out of this with a smile and they don't have to feel bad."