Staff, residents and executives gathered in the St. Joseph's Complex Continuing Care Centre's Healing Garden on May 31, to celebrate the centre's 10-year anniversary.
In its decade of serving as the city's rehabilitative care facility, St. Joe's has seen more than 3,000 patients transition from their centre and back to their homes.
The centre is a 64-bed Class G hospital that opened on June 1, 2009 as the first stand-alone continuing care facility in the Northeast LHIN.
Just this year, in January, St. Joseph's was also granted Class E designation as a rehabilitation hospital. The facility provides specialized care and services to adults requiring slower-paced rehabilitative and/or support care to maximize their functional potential.
"I can't believe it's been 10 years," said Kari Gervais, VP clinical services at SJCCC. "This is really an opportunity to celebrate our success of the past 10 years and reflect on how far we've come."
Back in 2009, the term "ALC patients" or alternate level of care, was becoming increasingly more common in health care.
"The number of patients designated ALC in acute care was climbing, and a root cause of this trend across the province was the need for slow-paced rehab," said Gervais.
"Also around that time, there was a lot of talk about the need to optimize the health system through better utilization of CCC (continuing care centre) beds. With this as our backdrop we set out to meet the slow-paced rehab needs of our community, and our journey began."
In its first year of operation, St. Joseph's transitioned just 22 patients, a number that has climbed to 534 this year, and has surpassed the 3,000 patient mark in its 10-year history.
"Our patients are at the centre of everything we do," said Gervais. "Our annual satisfaction rate is between 98 and 100 per cent. We've been blessed with an amazing team of staff, volunteers and physicians. This group has dedicated themselves to providing superior care and rehabilitation to our patients, they bought into our vision of becoming a rehabilitation hospital and have really taken it on as their own."
Shirley Newell is one of those 3,000-plus patients who have walked in and out the doors of SJCCC, and was on hand for the anniversary celebration on Friday to share her experience.
"I came in here in 2014 with a shattered femur, and I had a lot of apprehension, as a patient I didn't know what to expect," said Newell.
"As month after month rolled by and everyone helped me with my rehab, I knew I was in the best place for this, mentally as well as physically. Everyone from the nurses to the cleaning staff were there every day giving me encouragement until almost four months later when I was walking again and almost back to normal."
Nickel Belt MPP and health care critic France Gélinas attended Friday's celebration, lending credit to the Sisters of St. Joseph for their tireless work behind the scenes more than a decade ago in getting the centre up and running.
"We've always known that rehab was very important but pushing this forward was extremely difficult," said Gélinas.
"I see a lot of people here who shouldered that work and helped push for this. Working in the background, as is always the case, not making any noise, was the Sisters of St. Joseph, they always had our back. They knew, they understood and they kept pushing in a way that only the Sisters can do, always in a sweet voice, never pushy, but very persistent, they don't give up. I can guarantee if we didn't have the Sisters of St. Joseph in our community, all of this around us would not be here today."
While Friday's celebration was one of celebrating past accomplishments, it was also an opportunity to look to the future, and there are plans in place to expand at SJCC.
"With the support and collaboration from Health Sciences North, we will be submitting a capital planning proposal to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in June to allow for a 72-bed expansion," said Jo-Anne Palkovits, President and CEO at SJCCC.
"The most recent data shows that 24 per cent of the patients at HSN who are designated ALC are waiting for rehab at St. Joseph's. In addition, there are people waiting for rehab in the community and in our neighbouring hospitals. Looking forward, we want to become the rehab centre for Northeastern Ontario."