A city councillor believes it will cost too much money to turn the former Cornwall General Hospital site into a long-term care facility – and he has drawn the ire of a community activist who doesn’t want to see the building sold.
Syd Gardiner told Seaway News in an interview he figures it could cost as much $72 million to renovate the former hospital site on Second Street East and bring it up to provincial standards for long-term care facilities.
He based his numbers on what some have suggested would be $400 a square foot to renovate the facility. At 180,000 square feet, simple arithmetic would prove Gardiner’s analysis is correct – though no official study has been completed.
“I don’t debate the fact that we need long-term care beds,” said Gardiner. “But I use $72 million as a minimum. I suspect it would cost even more.
“So the focus and the energy shouldn’t be on renovating that building…the focus should be on lobbying the province to ante up some money to build a new facility.”
Such a facility would also likely cost tens of millions of dollars, but less than the cost of renovating the former General site, said Gardiner.
His comments drew sharp criticism from Mark MacDonald, a community activist and former city councillor who is championing a grassroots movement to stop the $2-million sale of the hospital site and keep it for use as a long-term care facility, and hub for other programming.
And he had some strong comments for city council, which he feels should be working in a “huge way” to halt the sale too.
“I just think they’re being lazy,” he said of council. “It’s going to require work.
“But there’s not going to be an election for two years, so they just lazy.”
MacDonald said the hospital facility could be used not only for long-term care beds, but also for housing government agencies like social housing offices and provincial government programming.
“It’s not just about the beds,” he said. “I don’t know that a feasibility study has been done (to determine renovation costs) and if Syd has got that information he should come forward.”
Gardiner, a former chair of the Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge board, said long-term care facilities in Ontario are governed by the Ministry of Health, and according to its Long-Term Care Home Design Manual, there are a slew of requirements that must be adhered for a facility to be allowed to house residents.
“The former Cornwall General Hospital building was constructed between 1930 and 1980 to be used as an acute-care hospital, which is different than a long-term care home,” said Gardiner.
And Gardiner is concerned if too much pressure is put on the province to augment the building at the former General site, Queen’s Park will simply remove money from the allotment its provides to the hospital to operate at its McConnell site.