CORNWALL, Ontario – Daniel Gauthier has jumped into the renovations taking place at the former Cornwall General Hospital with both feet…and the rest of him.
You see, he’s living there.
The native of Edmunston, N.B. and chief operating officer of Green Soldiers Inc., the firm that purchased the hospital site at the corner of Second and Marlborough streets in Cornwall last May for $2 million, is the lone occupant in a facility that used to employ hundreds of doctors, nurses and staff – not to mention care for dozens of patients.
There’s living space carved out for Gauthier, complete with a television, small fridge and he even has a piano and electronic keyboard set up so he can enjoy his free time with music.
“We need something to keep us sane,” he said with a laugh. “At first I thought it would be a little spooky – but the ghosts are friendly.”
Free time, though, is something in short supply for Gauthier as het sets about completing renovation work in the hospital building in time for a spring deadline.
The plan is to turn the hospital building into a health-care and wellness centre. It won’t come cheap – Gauthier estimates it could cost as much as $1 million to renovate the hospital building into a facility that could someday include services like acupuncture, day-time surgeries, physiotherapy and a long-term care component, to name a few.
The number climbs to as much as $2 million for the adjacent clinic building that will need new windows, HVAC and electrical systems before tenants can move in.
Gauthier has some help. In addition to one other worker he has retained the part-time services of Terry Thompson, an engineer who worked at the Cornwall General Hospital for the better part of 30 years.
They have set about painting and changing some of the aesthetics inside the building in preparation for becoming operational this April or May.
Gauthier admits he’s no doctor – his background is in construction and business.
But he has a plan…an ambitious one.
“This will be a place where people come in for preventative maintenance, I call it,” he said. “What we have to remember is I don’t want to relocate doctors from Third Street to Second Street.
“I want to attract new doctors to come here and get patients from outside the city, maybe within an hour’s drive, to start coming here.”
And he wants to secure licences to operate additional long-term care beds at his facility. His company estimates there are as many as 600 on a waiting list for long-term care spaces within 50 km of Cornwall. The number jumps up, the farther out one goes.
“One of the critical success factors for us is feedback from the community,” Gauthier said. “We may have to use political pressure. It may not be easy to get long-term care licences.”
Indeed, it isn’t. Local MPP Jim McDonell has railed against a lack of long-term care beds in the community, attacking the suggestions from the Local Health Integration Network that there are already enough in the community.
“We need new licenses,” said Gauthier. “Not to relocate them. Because relocation of long-term care beds does nothing for the community.”
He added his company’s decision to purchase a former hospital came with some perks. They received some equipment already in place at the facility, including an x-ray machine and some surgical hardware.
And there’s already other infrastructure in place.
“We did not hesitate to buy this place,” he said. “It’s very solid, structurally.
“And everything has a spare or a backup. There’s a pump here – and another one right next to it.”
While work is being completed inside the facility, Gauthier said his company continues to polish its business and marketing plans.
“We want a one-point meeting place for doctors and clients,” he said.