During the early 20th century the Ontario government was not known to contribute substantially towards the cost of constructing or operating hospitals.
In 1944 a group of physicians along with Bishop R.H. Dignan (Diocese of Sault Ste Marie) and Monsignor J.C. Humphrey (Christ the King Church) approached the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste Marie for assistance in financing the construction of a new hospital.
On September 2, 1944 the Sisters purchased seven acres of property located at 700 Paris Street from Mr. and Mrs. Stafford using their own funding. The Lieutenant Governor approved an Order in Council for the Sisters to establish a hospital on the former Stafford property. The hospital was to be known as “The Sudbury General Hospital”
– On April 6, 1948 the official turning of the sod took place.
– On May 29, 1949 the cornerstone was laid.
Construction of the Sudbury General Hospital (the last part of the name was dropped) was completed in 1950 at a cost of $3.1 million. The hospital eventually became the regional referral centre for trauma care and surgical services.
– The hospital opened on October 15, 1950 with the first patient admitted on November 1. On November 29, 1950 INCO contributed $125,000 towards the hospital.
– The Marymount School of Nursing opened in 1953.
In 1954 a new active treatment wing opened containing 100 beds, 33 of which were designated for the psychiatric unit while the rest were allocated to the surgical and obstetrical unit. nursery, physio and occupational therapy units.
In 1957 the St. Joseph’s Convent located on Louis Street was used to accomodate 37 more nursing students bringing the total to 115 students.
– By 1960 the Sudbury General Hospital contained 326 beds although it was designed for only 190 beds. Additions were made to the hospital over the years including the Mason building.
– In 1962 a treatment centre for cripple children opened for service.
– In 1964 a nuclear medicine department and medical library opened.
– In 1967 the hospital opened their ICU (intensive care unit), poison control centre and volunteer services centre.
– The last student graduated from the Marymount School of Nursing on May 28, 1969.
– On October 15, 1969 regional ambulance service was established and an ambulance garage constructed. The garage is to the left of the main entrance.
– By 1970 neurosurgery was available at the hospital.
– In 1971 excavation began on a new A-wing that included delivery rooms, operating theatres, intensive care, major emergency, x-ray and laboratory facilities and an eye, ear, nose, throat unit.
– In 1972 the Pastoral Care department was opened.
– By October 15, 1973 the hospital could accomodate 375 patients. It was during the same year that an inquest began into the deaths of 22 patients. Many of the deaths that occured at the hospital occured in the new A-wing and were thought to have been caused by a mix-up in pipes containing nitrous oxide gas and pure oxygen.
– On September 29, 1980 the hospital received a CAT scanner.
– On October 16, 1986 the formal opening of the helipad took place.
– On March 25, 1989 a fire broke out in a storage room causing major smoke damage. No injuries occured and arson was suspected.
The hospital operated until March 29, 2010.
The closing process
In 1997 the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission decided to consolidate Sudbury’s three hospitals into one location – the Laurentian Hospital site. The General and Memorial hospitals were to close and be demolished. The process was to be completed within a two year timeframe while the Sisters of St. Joseph would continue to operate the hospital while leasing the property for $1 a year.
The Sisters of St. Joseph negotiated a new role with the province to provide long-term care for seniors at a new location – the St. Joseph’s Villa. Part of the agreement was for the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to pay for the decommissioning process including the cost of demolition.
Rather than see the location demolished, the Sisters paid for a study to determine if the site could be used as a Long Term Care facility. The study found that the cost of renovations to bring the building up to standards would be too costly.
In 2005 the Sisters called for proposals to redevelop the St. Joseph’s site. The Sisters included a “Schedule of Conditions” that stipulated the bidder’s plans for the property would have to “support quality of life and healthy living for all” and to continue to “meet the needs of the people of Sudbury”.
In 2006 various groups brought forward their plans for the property but each of them required that the hospital would have to be a “Greenfield” (demolished). The City of Sudbury also bid for the property – proposing to turn the location into a hotel and convention site provided that the property was demolished.
The problem was that as the budgets were adjusted for the hospital restructuring, the cost of demolition was eventually removed from the final price. This left the Sisters unable to consider any of the proposals for the property.
On April 16, 2010 the Sisters notified the City of Sudbury that a local real estate agent had an out of city client who was interested in the property and that it might include the building in the offer. The Sisters initially declined the offer because it did not meet the Schedule of Conditions that were set out during the 2005 bidding process.
A meeting was held on May 20, 2010 with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to propose that the government fund the demolition costs. The government made no commitment to pay for the demolition costs and indicated that if they did fund the demolition, that the Sisters would have to pay the province the proceeds of selling the land.
The Sisters were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Their only options seemed to be: pay for the demolition, have the province demolish the property and receive the proceeds of the property sale or to sell the property with the building included.
The Sisters contacted the City of Sudbury on May 28 to inform them of the offer on the property that included the building “as is”. The Sisters would not accept the offer until they could discuss it with city officials. The offer was from an out of town developer – and the Sisters would have preferred the location went to a Sudbury developer instead.
The out of town developer indicated that their offer had to be accepted by 5:00 pm on May 31, 2010. The Sisters set up a video teleconference with City of Sudbury officials and advised them that they had received an offer and were prepared to accept it. City officials assured the Sisters that they would let the Mayor of Sudbury know about this.
The City of Sudbury did not respond to the Sisters before the deadline that day and so the property was sold to the outside party – Panoramic Properties of Niagra Falls. When details of the sale were released to the media, citizens criticized the City of Sudbury for allowing the property to be made available to an outside developer. The City on the other hand, criticized the Sisters for selling the property to an out-of-city party. The Sisters of St. Joseph released a full page ad in the newspaper indicating that they had informed city officials about the pending sale – and that the city failed to respond.
On November 1, 2007 a Kirkland Lake woman dressed as a nurse abducted a newborn baby from the St. Joseph’s Hospital. The hospital went into an immediate lockdown, an AMBER Alert was issued and all roads leading out of the city were blocked. The woman was arrested later that night at her home.
After the hospital closed it became the target of vandalism. Sometime between November 25th and 28th vandals broke inside and smashed walls, doors, glass and set off fire extinguishers. The damage was estimated to be more than $5000. (1)
Write-up, photos and video by Talking Walls Photo (Mike L.)
(2) Sister Bonnie MacLellan – General Superior
(3) Sister Mary Sheridan