A proud past at Parkwood Hospital will be parlayed into a new era for health care this November.
That’s when St. Joseph’s Health Care will cut the ribbon on the new mental health care facility under construction on the Wellington and Commissioners campus.
Combining Parkwood Hospital and Regional Mental Health Care (RMHC) London, the renamed Parkwood Institute will usher in a new era for recovery and rehabilitation that “erases the line” between physical and mental health care.
“Our goal is to overcome stigma and be clear that hope, recovery and ongoing management of mental illness is no different than other illnesses,” mental health site chief Dr. Sarah Jermain says in a YouTube video posted on the St. Joseph’s website.
The new $284-million building will open November 16, the culmination of 17 years of work since directions to create the new campus were issued by the province in 1997.
The combined campus will host about 600 beds and close to 2,000 staff members focused on treating the whole person, not just their medical conditions, according to hospital president and CEO Gillian Kernaghan.
“The focus is on helping people to recover to a place where they can successfully live well in the community,” she said Thursday (June 19).
They hope to accomplish that with a building that’s certified LEED Gold for environmental sustainability in design, construction and operation. Kernaghan said in stark contrast to traditional mental health facilities built decades ago, most of the building, including its chapel, music room and other “therapeutic spaces,” will be lit by natural light.
All of the patient rooms and much of the administrative offices face the Westminster Ponds, an effort to bring the outside in for patients whose treatment requires they stay inside.
The hospital plans a public engagement campaign in the months leading up to the opening to let its neighbours know what sort of mental health services will be offered.
Parkwood provides veterans’, complex, palliative, rehabilitative care and specialized geriatric services; RMHC provides treatment, recovery and rehabilitation for people experiencing severe and persistent mental illness from teens to older adults.
“Our community has certainly supported the existing site for years,” she said, “but whenever there’s a change, it’s important for us that the community understands and has their questions addressed.”
Effective Nov. 16, 2014 the changed name plays off Parkwood’s name recognition and commemorates its 120-year legacy as a hospital, opened in 1894 on Hamilton Road as the Home for the Incurables.
The origins of mental health care in the Forest City reach back even farther to the London Asylum for the Insane, opened on Highbury Avenue 145 years ago and renamed Ontario Hospital then London Psychiatric Hospital before its current name was adopted in 2000.
The term “institute” was added to reflect a focus on stand-out care and teaching, and a hope that research will continue to advance mental and physical health care.
Kernaghan is excited about the potential the new building will unlock for the people who provide the care, and the synergy that will result from having researchers from different disciplines on one site.
“It’s not enough to implement best practices,” Kernaghan said. “We want the team to define the best practices of the future.”