After years of work and planning the old Don Jail, famous for holding some of Canada’s most famous prisoners, is about to begin its new life as the administration centre for Bridgepoint Health’s new rehabilitation hospital.
On March 6, Bridgepoint president and CEO Marian Walsh was joined by Minister of Health and Long Term Care Deb Matthews to receive the ceremonial key to the new facility.
“Bridgepoint’s new facility will provide improved access to health care services for Ontarians, enhancing the quality of life for patients with complex chronic conditions,” Matthews wrote in a statement.
The new building includes accessible therapy gyms on every patient floor, increased space for outpatient services and community programming, a larger therapeutic pool and a multi-use trail that connects the hospital campus with Riverdale Park and the Lower Don Trail.
Patients will start to move in on April 14.
Bridgepoint was founded in 1860 as a house of refuge for “incurables and the indigent poor,” according to its website. In 1957 it became Riverdale Hospital, and was renamed Bridgepoint Hospital during the past decade. Construction of the new facility began in September 2009.
Bridgepoint specializes in so-called complex patients with multiple health conditions.
“You probably come to Bridgepoint because you’ve had an acute episode — you’ve been in a car accident, you’ve had a stroke, you’ve had a heart attack — but you’ve also probably had other underlying conditions that led to that,” Walsh said.
As part of the company’s master plan, the new facility was built next to the iconic half-round building that has served as the hospital’s home for the past 50 years — and which is scheduled for demolition, despite protests in 2005.
“It was a building that met the health care standards of 50 years ago, but doesn’t do so today,” Walsh said. “This new facility is … purpose-built to meet the needs of today’s complex patients.”
The history of the former Don Jail has been preserved with four cells remaining to allow visitors to see the cramped 1 x 2.5 metre quarters that once held two inmates at a time.
“It’s transforming a corner that was seen as fairly foreboding into a community resource,” Walsh said. “By bringing back what was the old Don Jail to full and vibrant life, changing it from a site of incarceration to a site of innovation, as well as building the new hospital on the same plot of land, Bridgepoint is building on its master plan and reconnecting with the community.”
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