Every year on December 13 we take the time to honour the contribution of the four original Sisters of Providence who made the journey to Kingston. Responding to an invitation from the Bishop to care for the sick, the elderly, the orphaned and the imprisoned, the Sisters arrived by train in the early morning hours on December 13, 1861. This day is celebrated annually as Founders’ Day.
The Sisters of Providence faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, and always found ways through the challenges to stay true to their mission to enhance quality of life. Now it is our turn, 161 years later, to continue to build on their history by providing high quality, compassionate care to those in our region who need it most.
Leading up to Founders Day, Providence Care’s rich history will be featured and we will reflect on the legacy of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, including the history of our Mental Health Services.
Providence Care has a long history of construction and renovation at our sites, as the needs of our community have evolved and changed over the years. Led by the Sisters of Providence of St.Vincent de Paul until divestment in 2007, Mental Health Services has occupied several buildings on the Kingston campus.
Before joining Providence Care in 2001, the Kingston Psychiatric Hospital (previously known as Rockwood Hospital, and then Ontario Hospital- Kingston) has occupied several buildings, including of course Rockwood (later Penrose). The Westwood building, home to the Mental Health Services site, was opened in 1959.
The Beginnings: 1800’s – Early 1900’s
In 1829 John Howard proposed founding an asylum for the mentally ill in Kingston. Before the widespread use of asylums, people with psychiatric conditions were placed in jail.
In Kingston, they were placed in the basement of the penitentiary. In 1839, the House of Assembly allotted 3,000 pounds for the construction of an asylum; however, Toronto, with a larger population, was given priority in receiving the money.
In 1859, Rockwood Villa, which was built for J.S. Cartwright in 1841, became Rockwood Asylum. In 1894, Charles Kirk Clarke assumed the position of Rockwood’s superintendent. Although he was not Rockwood’s first superintendent, he initiated some remarkable changes in the asylum, including the publication of “The Rockwood Review”, a monthly newsletter, as well building a gymnasium to encourage exercise among patients.
Growth and the War: 1920’s – 1950’s
Under the leadership of Superintendent Edward Ryan, Rockwood Asylum’s name was changed to Rockwood Hospital and the Ontario Neuro-Psychiatric Association was instituted to expand avenues in clinical research as well as to bring mental health care professionals together. Ryan also persuaded the government to fund the development of the Mowat building to be used for recovering and rehabilitating individuals. In 1920 Rockwood Hospital’s name was changed again, this time to Ontario Hospital – Kingston.
In 1936, after Thomas Cumberland and Archibald Kilgour had both resigned as superintendents, Ernest A. Clark assumed the role, encouraging client interaction with the larger Kingston community and introducing libraries into both the main building and the Mowat Wing.
By the end of the Second World War, Joseph Stewart was superintendent and the hospital was grossly understaffed due to World War II. Three years later Roger Billings joined Ontario Hospital as director of the Mental Health Clinic.
Development and Expansion: 1950’s – 1980’s
After the Second World War, Ethel Clarke, Director of Occupational Therapy, introduced an Occupational Therapy Assistant’s course to the hospital.
In 1959, the Westwood complex (currently the Mental Health Services site) opened under Homer McCuaig, the superintendent at the time.
During the 1960s, the hospital underwent many changes, making the atmosphere for clients more relaxed and positive. Brian Juniper introduced a music department for clients; John Pratten eliminated the hospital’s “locked door” policy; and a special unit for children and adolescents opened in the hospital.
In 1965 the name Ontario Hospital – Kingston was changed to Kingston Psychiatric Hospital in an effort to encourage the people of Kingston to think about the hospital as a part of the community.
In 1971, the Ministry of Health eliminated the position of medical superintendent in provincial psychiatric facilities in an effort to democratize responsibility therein. The next year, Richard Van Allen introduced a series of co-operative homes to be run by patients with some help from students and hospital staff. 1975 marked a year of physical developments to the building itself: it was the year that the Beechgrove complex opened.
Compassion and Discovery: 1980’s – Present Day
In March of 2001, after years of planning, the Kingston Psychiatric Hospital was divested from the province and placed under the authority of the Providence Continuing Care Centre’s Governing Board, joining St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital and Providence Manor. The former psychiatric hospital’s name was changed to Mental Health Services.
In 2017, Providence Care opened Providence Care Hospital (PCH) – a 270-bed state-of-the-art care environment for patients and clients, bringing together the programs and services located at St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital and Mental Health Services (MHS) buildings.
PCH is the first publically funded hospital in North America to fully-integrate long-term, specialized mental health, physical rehabilitation, palliative care and complex care together in one building, reflecting Providence Care’s Values to treat each person with respect, dignity and compassion. The entire hospital has been designed to be welcoming and inclusive of all people, no matter what age, ability or needs.
Providence Care continues to be a leader in specialized care, in the areas of aging, mental health and rehabilitative services. Our reputation as a compassionate health care provider is based on a strong history of enhancing the quality of life for those we serve whether it is in the hospital, home or in the community.