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.

 

Sullivan: Weston’s hospital site.

Now that the dust has settled after October’s Federal Election, I was curious as to how former York South-Weston Member of Parliament, Mike Sullivan was adjusting to the new reality of being a regular citizen once more. He agreed to an in-depth interview and we sat down last Friday over coffees in a busy Perfect Blend Bakery. We touched on four main topics that have been published over the last few days.

Already published:

1. Fallout from the election

2. The Weston Cultural Hub

3. Metrolinx

The fourth and final issue that we discussed was Weston’s recently closed hospital.

4. The Church Street, former Humber River Regional Hospital Site.

The Humber River Hospital’s three campus locations have closed to be replaced by a brand new hospital at Wilson and Keele. In preparation for the closing of our local Church Street site, the Hospital Board went ahead with plans to sell the site to the highest bidder. Some people then pointed out that a significant chunk of the original site was a bequest with the proviso that the land would be used for a Weston hospital in perpetuity. The matter is now before the courts.

The Church Street Site last August before it closed.
The Church Street Campus last August before it closed.

Sullivan sees a solution in the way other parts of the province have handled their hospital closings,

What should happen is the Province pays the appropriate price for the property and turns it into a long term care facility which they have already done in Parry Sound and Ottawa and other places where hospitals that have been decommissioned have become long term care facilities. According to (York South-Weston MPP) Ms. Albanese, it’s not as simple as one arm of the province buying the hospital from another. She said that the hospital is entirely run by a private corporation that has nothing to do with the province and that corporation can do whatever it wants with the land. Martin Proctor challenged her strongly on this at a meeting and pointed out that it was the folks in Weston that contributed and added on to that hospital over many years and now they are losing that resource. What appears to have happened is that the Province has separated itself from hospitals by declaring them corporations run by an independent board who the Province then paid 2 billion dollars to build a new one on the understanding that the board would raise 200 million of its own by selling the land and other fundraising.

 

The province can correct its mistake by saying that the land which is worth about 20 million can be forgiven to the Hospital Board of Directors and the province take over the property but Ms. Albanese wasn’t going there.

 

They’ve got to build long term care facilities anyway – somebody has to. There’s a 1 year wait list for long-term care facilities and people will die on that list. Why are we ignoring a  great potential? I understand that the Province wants privately run long-term care facilities but surely if the land is available they can find a developer who is willing to do that.

 

I spoke to Rueben Devlin (HRRH CEO) about that possibility and he told me it could never be a long-term care facility because the rules are so strict it wouldn’t meet the current standards. But then how did they do it in Parry Sound and Ottawa? The province has grandparented other buildings why wouldn’t they do that in Weston rather than tearing it down and building a condo tower. SuOn College is very interested in the site. They’re bursting at the seams and are looking to expand.

There would be no rezoning needed as it is zoned institutional. The fly in the ointment is that the city owns part of the site and the hospital was very quick to go to court over that and are suing the city to try and keep title of the land with the Hospital. Frances had a plan for some kind of trade that would allow the city to keep some parkland somewhere in exchange for the land. Her wonderful deal with Cruickshank Section 37 money didn’t buy a community amenity – it bought drainage in Swanek park which the City was going to pay for anyway.

I contacted York South-Weston MPP Laura Albanese and she confirmed that currently the site is zoned institutional. She also confirmed that hospitals are not fully funded by the province but communities are expected to have an investment in their hospital by raising 10% of the funding. The sale of the Church Street Site would go towards that community contribution. Under the current setup, long term care facilities are managed by not-for-profit corporations, indirectly connected with the Ontario Government. In order to use that as a solution, there has to be an expression of interest from such an entity and to date there has been none. She also mentioned that until the ownership of the deeded land on the HRRH site is settled, nothing is likely to proceed.

She did say that the Keele Street Hospital Campus has been sold to developer Daniels Corporation and the plan is to build some institutional facilities along with low-rise housing.

Having a similar outcome for Weston probably wouldn’t be too terrible, but who knows – with the way things are done in this city, the vision, accompanied by beautiful architectural drawings and the reality are often two entirely different things. Can you say Weston Cultural Hub?

Thanks to Mike Sullivan for agreeing to do this and to MPP Laura Albanese for her response.

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”

InsideToronto on Humber Hospital sale

Weston residents are upset about the potential sale of the Humber River Regional Hospital, says InsideToronto, in a long piece.

According to Dominik Kurek, the city will fight to own the land covered by an old deed, which could thwart an easy sale of the site. The hospital is suing the city for the right to sell

The councillor hosted the meeting to update the community on the court process, saying the city intends to stake its claim to the 1.25-acre portion of the hospital’s 11 acres of land located on Church Street. The Town of Weston had sold the 1.25-acre parcel to the hospital in 1948.

Laura Albanese, however, was “grilled” by the audience for the province’s part.

Laura Albanese, fourth from right, cutting the ribbon on the new site

Selling off taxpayer assets.

This week (Monday) we will have a meeting concerning the land, some of which was donated to the town of Weston for what became Humber River Regional Hospital back in the 1940s. We will also have a residents’ meeting (Wednesday) to hear citizen input regarding the Weston Hub on John Street. In both of these cases, taxpayer funded entities sold or are looking to sell valuable public land to developers. The Toronto Parking Authority sold off the old GO Station parking lot with little fanfare and now HRRH effectively wants to sell its entire site to developer/s.

On the one hand, we have been told by Councillor Nunziata and others, it’s essential for a tower to be built as part of the Weston Hub on the GO site but according to Inside Toronto, she is quoted as being opposed to one on the hospital site,

“The people from the community are very concerned because it is an 11-acre site, it is zoned institutional and they were concerned the hospital was going to try and sell it to the highest bidder and build towers, residential, which they didn’t want.”

I would guess that those same citizens of Weston aren’t cheering about a 31– 30 storey* rental tower on the old GO parking lot but it looks like they’re getting one. Why is the HRRH site any less vulnerable? Answer: it’s probably not.

As the old saying goes, there is only one taxpayer. Why are (often hard fought) public assets compromised by the need for taxpayer funded agencies to raise cash? Surely our cities deserve better and more deliberate planning than this?

One more thing… Farmers Market traders have been concerned for a while that because their new site is so much smaller, they won’t have room for their vehicles. Superimposing the approximate new space allocation (black line) over a satellite view of the Market in full swing is quite telling and may explain traders’ anxiety. This much smaller space may work well with stalls selling selling pickled artisanal mushrooms and the like but it probably won’t be the same for many of our current traders who need their current freedom to spread out.

Farmers Marketl space allocation after the Hub is built.
Farmers Marketl space allocation (black line) after the Hub is built.

Parking may be an issue too as that will be in the lower part of the green space at the bottom of the image.

*Update: Etobicoke York Council minutes have changed (from the original agenda) to now state that the Hub rental apartment will be 30 storeys. Hopefully it was just a typo on the part of clerical staff.

HRRH sale hits a snag

Frances Nunziata posted some really interesting information to her email circular earlier this week. The Humber River Regional Hospital remains unable to sell the old building, which will be empty starting in October. The building is unsellable because of the termsof an old deed.

This first became a problem a year ago when residents brought up the Trimbee’s deed at a meeting with hospital administrators. The Trimbees said that the land must be used for a hospital and, according to Frances Nunziata’s circular, if it is no longer needed, it must be “first offered for sale to the City for a minimal cost.”

Nunziata says “I have had ongoing meetings with the Mayor and senior management to discuss any opportunities the City may have to use the site.”

The issue will first go to the courts. The HRRH wants the hospital to be sold free and clear. The city’s lawyers will be arguing that we are entitled to the land.

Woman killed in crash at HRRH

Toronto Police say that a woman was killed in an odd, single-vehicle collision at the Humber River Regional Hospital on Sunday.

The police say that an 81-year-old woman drove through the parking lot then hit a building. The driver “suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment” where she was pronounced dead.