What’s up at Church Street Hospital?

Way back in 2018, I was asked what was up at the Church Street site of the  Humber River Hospital (and I never did find out). An answer has come to light thanks to some readers and Frances Nunziata’s circular: It’s a “Reactivation Care Centre”—an off-ramp for acute-care hospital patients, who “no longer need acute care services, but often find themselves waiting for an alternate care facility, such as convalescent and long-term care.”

Photo from Sunnybrook

Our RCC is the second in the province, preceded by the Finch Avenue site that was also part of the Humber River Regional Hospital group.

According to Nunziata’s circular, things are still getting started at our location, and at present, there are 94 beds. An additional 120 will be opened in March.

The Church Street site will alleviate pressure at local acute-care hospitals that are part of the Central Local Health Integration Network. Sunnybrook, for example,  typically has “an occupancy rate of over 100 per cent”; sending patients to the Church RCC will free up beds needed urgently, and give patients specialized restorative care.

So it’s a win-win.

It’s also great news for Weston.

When the Church Street site was closed, many residents were concerned that it would be sold to developers, and that a high-density development would be built in a low-density neighbourhood. There were also concerns we would be missing the chance to develop a public good, like a college, seniors’ home, childcare, or park.

Plans to sell the property were thwarted, at least at first, by an odd legal artifact: 70 years ago, the Trimbee family sold the land to the Town of Weston with the condition that it would be used only for a hospital. The city sought to vacate that condition.

Could the Weston hospital re-open?

The province will likely reopen the Jane and Finch branch of the Humber River Regional Hospital, according to to Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health. It may be used to ease a capacity crunch in pre-longterm care. Perhaps the Church Street site could be also be reopened.

Both the Jane and Finch and Church Street sites were closed in 2015. The HRRHs’ services were consolidated at the new Wilson and Keele site.

The Church site, which  Hoskins did not mention in his speech at Queen’s Park, remains unsold as lawyers work through a thorny issue: the Trimbee family gave away a chunk of land the building sits on with a condition: its ownership would revert to the Town of Weston if it were no longer used as a hospital.

Re-opening the Church site may be a long shot, but the province could use as many as 3000 beds for people too ill or too frail to go home but who are not suited to the acute care provided at a hospital. The Finch site has only 150. In a spirited exchange at Queen’s Park, Hoskins said

since day one of that new hospital opening, we have been looking at this as a positive opportunity to free up capacity in a number of hospitals, not just Humber River. There are a number of hospitals in Toronto and the GTA that are contributing to this plan.

 

The secret future of the hospital site

The Toronto Star has a detailed article on the legal conflict over the Church Street hospital site.

Frances Nunziata, despite her support of other high-rise developments in Weston, seems to have sensed changing public opinion.

Some residents are concerned that the hospital will sell “to the highest bidder” [Nunziata says] who will build townhouses or condo towers — increasing density and traffic in the area.

“The community wants a long-term care (facility), seniors’ residence, a child-care facility, they don’t want the hospital to sell it to a developer to build residential,” she said.

The deed “really was sort of a trump card for us, for the city and the community, because we want institutional uses on the land. It’s really the use of the land the community wants to leverage.”

The secret legal settlement offer will be considered—also in secret—at the next City Council meeting, on November 3. The settlement will only be made public if it is approved by council and only with the permission of the City Solicitor.

HRRH closes

The Humber River Regional Hospital closed this weekend. On Sunday morning at 6 am, the Church Street site shut its doors for the last time.

The hospital has moved to a new building at Keele and Wilson.


(Skip to 12:00)

The move, like the hospital, has been contentious. The future of the Church Street site is uncertain; the hospital board would like to sell it to pay a portion of their part of the bill (which is $200 million) but the city has a claim on some of the land.

Laura Albanese distanced herself from the move in a recent email circular, which included a very interesting passage:

The Province of Ontario does not own the land on which the HRH Church site is located. It is owned by the hospital…. Hospital leaders, including their Board of Directors, must take into account the overall public interest when making decisions .

If true, perhaps the Board might be held to a higher standard than pure profit and the land, perhaps, could be used for something other than another high-rise.

The hospital was contentious long before it closed, however. It was for a time one of the worst hospitals in Canada, and tried to hide the fact.

Still, it tried hard to improve over the past 8 years, and many people, myself included, feel attachments to it for the health care it provided us.

Video by “Across the Board”