CORNWALL/SD&G – The Cornwall Community Hospital has celebrated the end of an 11 year journey and the beginning of a new chapter.
Close to 200 dignitaries from across SD&G, provincial and federal government officials and members of the public gathered in the main entrance Friday afternoon to celebrate the amalgamation and consolidation.
Five of those 11 years was the $113 million redevelopment project to expand the 840 McConnell Avenue site to fit in the departments from Second Street. The last of those departments, which included the sleep clinic, were moved early in the new year.
“It is no small feat to bring to fruition a construction project like this…it’s absolutely incredible,” said Champlain LHIN CEO Chantale LeClerc.
Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy says there have been so many people involved in the construction of the hospital. “It’s not just the City of Cornwall’s hospital, it’s the community’s hospital and our community includes the counties of SD&G. This is now a regional based hospital,” Mayor O’Shaughnessy said.
The hospital services a regional population of roughly 85,000 people.
Reflecting on the decision in the early 1990s to build a new hospital, MPP Jim McDonell said it was not an easy decision, giving the amount of community fund raising that would have to take place.
“This truly is a regional hospital,” SD&G Warden Eric Duncan said, echoing the words of Cornwall’s mayor. “We are often looking at what we need to fix but sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and reflect on the fortunate things we have. We have a great hospital, better hospital today with great people working in it.”
A major contributor to the hospital was the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. “On behalf of the community we are so happy. Our hopes and expectations have risen exponentially that the future will increase our health care,” said Executive Director Sheree Bonaparte.
Hospital CEO Jeanette Despatie was described as an “outstanding leader” by Cornwall Hospital Board chairman Michael Turcotte. “If it wasn’t for her, I truly don’t believe that we’d be standing here today, she’s done an outstanding job,” Turcotte said to fevered applaude.
“This has been a massive project and it was not all about the bricks and mortar,” Despatie told the audience. “Eleven years ago we amalgamated our acute care hospital but this past year we consolidated on one site. I cannot begin to describe to you the benefits that we enjoyed today because of these decisions years ago,” she said.
Also making presentations were the parliamentary assistant to the Ontario health minister, John Fraser, Attorney General and Francophone Minister Madeleine Meilleur, MP Guy Lauzon and Cornwall Hospital Foundation Board chairman Allan Wilson.
On a red carpet, book-ended by stanchions with red velvet ropes, officials cut a blue ribbon outside the main entrance on McConnell Avenue following the speeches.