What is your position on the old hospital?

Updated October 8

As I’ve continued to hunt down more information on the potential designation of the old hospital, one thing that continues to be first and foremost in my mind is that we must put the needs of our people first.

If Southbridge is allowed to demolish the old hospital, the current residents of Hope Street Terrace will be living in a construction zone for a minimum of 3.5 years (this was the minimum build time quoted to me by a Southbridge representative). The size of the current site will also not permit any future expansion when more long term care beds are released.

Building a long term care facility on the Hope/Ward street site is not in the best interests of current or future residents. We must work toward finding Southbridge a site that is acceptable within the municipality: properly zoned and serviced, the right size, and a convenient location. I have heard of at least 3 sites that have been discussed by members of council and municipal staff, and other ideas have appeared from citizens that warrant investigation. As the CRB hearing will not occur until February with the report from the hearing following at some unknown date (i.e., 4+ months from now), surely it is in the best interests of our long term care residents and staff, and Southbridge’s business, to seriously consider these alternate sites now.

I freely admit that my initial position was to not designate the old hospital. I’ve left my original thoughts below for transparency. But with new information and stakeholder discussions having occurred, I feel the best solution for our long term care residents and staff and for Port Hope’s historical reputation is to vote for designation.

 


Updated September 5

Council voted last night to continue the process of the intent to designate the old hospital. It is unclear whether the ultimate decision to designate will still rest with the current council or will become the responsibility of the new council that will be sworn in in December, as the report from the Conservation Review Board has no delivery date at this time.

I stand by my position that we need to put our people first. We have to find a viable long term care solution for Port Hope.

If 65 Ward is designated:

We must be prepared for Southbridge to walk away from the site, and we must be prepared to take ownership of the future of the site.

Given that designation seems a strong possibility, I feel the municipality must help Southbridge find an alternate location, within Port Hope, that is properly zoned and serviced. The municipality should do everything in its power to assist this effort, whether that be providing land, expediting zoning reviews and changes, or finding another developer for 65 Ward or purchasing the building.

If 65 Ward is not designated:

We must be prepared to allow a new facility within the confines and character of the neighbourhood.

I have concerns with Southbridge’s current plan, specifically about the size of the site as it relates to green space and parking. These are items that would be addressed during site plan approvals, but it would be nice to see some thought about them now. If, as Mr. Carter stated during HPH’s presentation last night, underground parking is an option on the site, I feel this would be a good avenue to explore.

The municipality, HPH, and ACO must also be ready to work with Southbridge to incorporate elements of the site and building heritage into the new facility. Hesitation or uncertainty on our part will likely result in missed opportunities to showcase our healthcare legacy.

A note on process

There was a lot of talk last night about “process”, and whether the review by the CRB should continue or not.

That discussion aside, I feel we’ve missed the boat on this property. If, as Southbridge says, the due diligence was done when they purchased it and the intent to designate was a surprise, then there is a failure in that process. We should not be allowed to suddenly throw up barriers when a building owner wants to change or demolish a building they own.

Happily, work is currently being done on a heritage register. Hopefully the register will allow us to avoid this situation in the future. I’m glad to see this work happening.

 

My original post on this issue follows below.


We have to put the needs of our citizens first. That’s my short answer. If I had compelling information showing me that demolition was the only viable option to keep long term care in Port Hope, I would support that.

But I’m not ready to condemn the old hospital to demolition.

The old hospital has an impressive history and is a beautiful, if tired, building. I commend the ACO for the work they have done to understand the requirements set out for long term care (LTC) and devise what appears to be a workable solution that would see the old hospital preserved.

Southbridge has indicated that the existing building cannot be used, for numerous reasons. The concerns they present appear valid, and they have shown that they are willing to help preserve some aspects of the site’s heritage and history. However, I don’t believe that they have acted as a good corporate citizen up to this point.

What I haven’t seen yet is evidence of the two sides working together to determine whether a mutually agreeable solution can be reached. Southbridge seems to not want to participate, but rather indicate it’s their way or the highway. I’m not an architect or a long term care provider, so I don’t know if such a solution is feasible, but I hope it is. If it’s not, I would like to see both sides agree that that is the case.

I recognize that there is an element of time involved – we can’t just keep going back to the drawing board looking for the right answer. And while the care of our citizens is our number one priority, we also have a duty to protect our heritage. It is, after all, much of what makes Port Hope the town it is.

This leads me to several more questions, to which I’m not sure I have answers:

  • At what point must we stop and say “we’ve tried everything we can”? How do we encourage active, constructive discussion before that point?
  • Should the municipality provide an incentive to Southbridge to work with the ACO to try to find an acceptable compromise? How can we compel Southbridge to participate?
  • If the old hospital is demolished, how can we ensure Southbridge remains accountable for preserving, incorporating, or displaying some of the site’s history?
  • If Southbridge walks away, what happens to the people? What happens to the old hospital?
  • If an alternate LTC location is found within the municipality, what happens to the old hospital, Hope Terrace, and Regency Manor? How are they repurposed?

If I had to choose today, I would be in favour of not designating the old hospital because we must put our people first. But I believe there is still an opportunity for the municipality, the ACO, and Southbridge to work together to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone. I would fully support this effort, and will do whatever I can to contribute to it.

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