Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) Port Hope has launched a fact first campaign in our fight to save the historic hospital that treated our WWI soldiers during and after the war.
Why? It’s important. A vital piece of our town’s history and future is at stake. Our historic former hospital is at the mercy of Southbridge Care Homes, a for-profit company in the business of long-term care who owns the property and is intent on forcing the Municipal Councillors to allow its demolition.
ACO Port Hope has a responsibility to heritage buildings and the people of Port Hope to let the facts be known so residents can step forward to save this building and restore it for the good use it was designed to provide.
Here’s the challenge: there’s a lot of misinformation circulating about Southbridge Care Homes’ plan to build a new long-term care facility at 65 Ward St. This is the site of Port Hope’s first hospital of 1913, formerly a private home, where more than 200 WW1 soldiers were cared for. The second larger hospital of 1916 was built with funds raised by the residents of Port Hope to make this care possible as a significant recuperative centre for wounded soldiers and veterans during and after the war. There’s also a service pavilion dating to 1916 and the hospital addition of 1921.
Although Port Hope Council passed a unanimous motion on April 11 to initiate heritage designation of the property, Council may decide to re-open the motion for discussion again at the June 19 Council meeting. The ACO Port Hope Advocacy Committee will speak as a delegation to Council before the meeting. We invite you to come and show your support.
Now, a closer look at the facts to consider:
Southbridge Claim #1
Statement: Southbridge has said its new facility will create 60 more long-term care beds for the community.
Fact: Southbridge owns Regency Manor, which has 60 long-term care beds, and Hope Street Terrace, which has 97 beds. Southbridge has stated that the new long-term care home will be a consolidation to make the existing care homes more efficient as one new facility with 160 beds. That’s an increase of only three beds.
Southbridge Claim #2
Statement: Southbridge says it will pull its 160 beds out of Port Hope if 65 Ward St. is designated as a heritage site, and claims that this will result in the loss of 150 jobs.
Fact: Southbridge has admitted that the new long-term care home will be a consolidation to make the existing care homes more efficient by cutting staff. How many new jobs will be created in the consolidation to a long-term care home with only three additional beds? Moreover, it is not easy for Southbridge to take its planned long-term care home elsewhere because the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has a legal process in place for public hearings and consultation to protect residents before closing long-term care homes or moving beds out of the local area.
Southbridge Claim #3
Statement: Southbridge has said the building of 65 Ward St. is not structurally or fiscally viable to meet MOHLTC guidelines.
Fact: ACO Port Hope heritage architects provided proposals to Southbridge to redevelop the buildings in keeping with the heritage designation. The architects’ most recent proposals could meet provincial guidelines. Southbridge architects have never explained how the proposals could not meet these guidelines. These proposals have not been submitted to MOHLTC for review.
Southbridge Claim #4
Statement: Under the provincial mandate, all ward rooms with Class C beds will be updated and converted to Class A beds. It is a virtual certainty that heritage designation would make the modification of the current facilities at 65 Ward St. for these long-term care beds impossible.
Fact: As part of the ACO Port Hope proposal for the facility, only the frame of the building would be preserved and the interior would be reconstructed to include only Class A beds. Unfortunately, Southbridge has not been receptive to ACO Port Hope efforts.
Southbridge Claim #5
Statement: ACO Port Hope members don’t know anything about long-term care.
Fact: ACO Port Hope knows a lot about long-term care. Many of us have family and friends in long-term care. We have visited many long-term care facilities and looked at the inspection reports of a variety of long-term care homes, including those of Southbridge. One of our members is also a member of Concerned Friends, a group advocating for quality long-term care in Ontario. This organization has provided a great deal of information, particularly about the detrimental impact of for-profit companies, such as Southbridge, on the quality of long-term care provided in Ontario.
Southbridge Claim #6
Statement: ACO Port Hope members care about buildings before people.
Fact: ACO Port Hope has voluntarily helped the people in Port Hope a great deal not only by preserving our heritage, recently working to preserve the Opera House building and the Little Railway Station, but also by spending $500,000 to revitalize the historic downtown and run events, such as the Port Hope House Tour, Port Hope Garden Tour, ACO Artifacts and Antiques Auction, 50th Anniversary Picnic and the Barn Quilt Trail which provide activities for everyone and bring business to town. In fact, unlike Southbridge, we put people before profits every day.
Southbridge Claim #7
Statement: Southbridge had many meeting with ACO Port Hope.
Fact: Southbridge was required by Council to meet with ACO Port Hope only once. Should the 65 Ward St. site be designated, Southbridge would be entitled to apply to ACO for grants and low-interest loans to help defray the costs of preserving and maintaining the heritage features of this important property. We want to support and work with Southbridge to redevelop the property for the good use of our residents now and in the years to come.
Southbridge Claim #8
Statement: Southbridge was “surprised” that the Council considered and then actually voted to use the Notice of Intent to Designate for 65 Ward St.
Fact: Southbridge blamed Heritage Port Hope (HPH) and ACO Port Hope for not proposing designation of the property years ago. However, the Ontario Heritage Toolkit, the companion document to the Ontario Heritage Act, recommends using the Notice of Intent to Designate as a tool to protect undesignated heritage buildings from demolition. It is a sort of “buyer beware” clause for anyone who is thinking of buying and then demolishing a heritage building, designated or not.
Both HPH and ACO Port Hope certainly knew that this protection was in place and therefore never considered designation as urgent.
Southbridge should have known about this aspect of the Ontario Heritage Act and should not have been the least bit “surprised” when Council decided to use the Notice of Intention to Designate for 65 Ward St. Indeed, this protection of a threatened property under the Ontario Heritage Act should have been flagged by Southbridge’s lawyers when the property was purchased in the first place. If Southbridge really had been surprised, then the company clearly had not done its homework.
Let the facts speak for themselves. Join the fight to save our historic former hospital.