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It’s been a bittersweet couple of months at St. Joseph’s hospital.
But as part of the institution’s lengthy history crumbles to the ground, a new chapter is set to begin. As demolition crews continued on Wednesday to take down the former Sister Margaret Smith Centre, St. Joseph’s Care Group CEO Tracy Buckler said the new $50-million wing that will take its place will improve the organization’s ability to serve its growing clientele.
The new wing is being built to house the specialized mental health rehabilitation program wing, currently situated in leased space at the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital.
It will also hold a number of the group’s other services, including financial, human resources and information systems and technology.
It’s all about progress, Buckler said.
“The St. Joseph’s hospital has been around for a long time. We’ve tried to keep it as up-to-date and as current as we can,” Buckler said. “It is showing its age a little bit and so we always try to improve and update.
“This new wing will really be built on best practices in mental health. It will be an appropriate environment for the people we are serving with our mental health rehabilitation program.”
Buckler went on to say the new facility has been designed to provide safe and quality care, with an emphasis on modern health-care needs.
“It’ll be a great addition to the St. Joseph’s hospital building. It will look a little different than what the current St. Joseph’s Hospital looks like, but it will be a wing that’s integrated into the hospital site, as opposed to a standalone building,” she said.
“We think that that’s very important for the staff and for the clients, to be able to be a part of the St. Joseph’s Hospital as an integrated program.”
Buckler said the hospital already provides physical rehabilitation services, so it only makes sense to move the mental health to come onboard.
“Mental health is a great fit at this site, to be able to have all of our rehabilitation services in one place,” she said.
Project manager Scott Anttonen said the $2-million demolition is being done with care and to strict green standards, which is why the project will take until mid-September or longer to complete.
It’s not just a matter of knocking the building, which also used to house nurses when the hospital had a nursing program, to the ground and picking up the pieces.
“You’re right about that. These types of projects, with an operating facility adjacent, there’s a lot of complexity there maintaining site service and safety to clients and staff,” Anttonen said.
“It’s lot more than a typical new building.”
Anttonen added his crew has carefully removed anything salvageable from the site, including windows that were donated to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
“Now what you see here is the gutted building and the remaining demo,” he said.
The Sister Margaret Smith Centre for addictive services was relocated to Lillie Street a couple of years ago.
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