Closing Oak Ridge
Divestment from the Ministry of Health
Beginning in the late 1990s, the Health Services Restructuring Commission of Ontario recommended that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care divest the nine existing mental health institutions to either public hospitals or community mental health agencies. The purpose of this plan was to enable a community-based model of mental health services.
|Institution||Year of Divestment|
|Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Toronto)||1998|
|The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (Ottawa)||2000|
|St. Joseph's Health Care Centre (Hamilton)||2000|
|Providence Care (Kingston)||2001|
|St. Joseph's Health Care (London)||2001|
|St. Joseph's Care Group (Thunder Bay)||2003|
|North Bay Regional Health Centre (North Bay)||2005|
|Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Services (Whitby)||2006|
|Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care (Penetanguishene)||2008|
The Transfer Agreement of each of the nine institutions specified the timeframes and conditions for their respective divestment. These generally included the funding structure of the organization and the minimum services required for the local community. In the case of Penetanguishene, this agreement also specified the replacement of the Oak Ridge facility.
In addition to the physical building replacement, all patients of the Regional and Oak Ridge divisions of the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene had to be discharged and readmitted to the new corporation at the time of transfer. All transfers took place at midnight on December 15, 2008 and required that staff stay the night to perform the task.
Planning the Oak Ridge Replacement
In March of 2007, funding to rebuild the maximum-security forensic mental health facility in Penetanguishene was included as part of the provincial budget. The Hon. George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long Term Care, announced that year that $6 million were being provided upfront for the preparation of the plans for the facility, with construction initially anticipated to begin in 2009.
In partnership with Infrastructure Ontario, the new building - named the Atrium Building - was constructed between 2010 and 2014. The official launch of the site preparation for the Atrium building was on May 12, 2010. On January 31, 2011 a contract was signed with Integrated Team Solutions (ITS) to design, build, finance, and maintain the Atrium building.
In the end, the design physically integrated the forensic division more directly with the Regional division in the Toanche Building and the Administation Building.
A New Name
In recognition of its divestment from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene changed its name to the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care on May 6, 2011.
The population of Oak Ridge moved on May 5, 2014. The men were brought down the hill to the new building in yellow school buses, escorted by staff. In the span of only a few hours, every patient was relocated to their new rooms in the Atrium Building.
Although the actual move between buildings was conducted within a single day, preparation for the event spanned months. In the weeks leading up to the move, mock transfers were staged in an effort to prepare both staff and patients for the actual event. An in-house bulletin, Ready, Set, Go, was also produced to help keep everyone informed of the process.
Staff and Family Tours
Possession of the Oak Ridge building was transferred to the Ellis Don company for demolition only days after the patients were moved to the Atrium building. Within this short time, tours were arranged for current and former staff members to view the building one last time and to bring their famlies. The occasion was one of the few opportunities in 81 years that staff members could show their place of work to their families.
A ceremony concluded the event with the front gates of Oak Ridge being locked for the "final" time.
Demolition of Oak Ridge
Demolition of the Oak Ridge building began in the early weeks of May 2014 and was completed by the end of that summer. The components of the building were removed and recycled. The only physical trace of the Oak Ridge building that remains on the site are the stone entrance gates that were originally constructed by a patient in the 1930s.
Preserving the History of Oak Ridge
Members of the community of Penetanguishene initially sought an historical designation from the province in order to preserve the Oak Ridge building. After deliberations, an agreement was made between Penetanguishene and the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care to have the front entryway of Oak Ridge preserved and placed somewhere within the community. Each party was to contribute half the funds necessary; unfortunately the plan did not come to fruition.
In the months leading up to the closing of the Oak Ridge building, two historical projects were carried out by staff of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. The first, led by the Communications Department, involved the creation of a documentary about Oak Ridge. Staff and patients were interviewed, and the routine of the division leading up to the move to the Atrium building was filmed. The second project, led by the Research & Academics division, resulted in the Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. In the days between the patient move, artefacts were collected from throughout the building and photographs were taken of the interior spaces of the building.
By Jennifer L. Bazar
Page Last Updated: June 4, 2015
Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care (2011). Annual report, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, 2010-2011. Retrieved from http://www.waypointcentre.ca/UserFiles/Servers/Server_9960/File/Communications/annual%20report%202011.pdf
Ontario Hospital Association. (2012). Remuneration of psychiatrists in divested provincial psychiatric hospitals. Retrieved from http://www.oha.com/KnowledgeCentre/Library/Documents/Remuneration%20of%20Psychiatrists%20in%20Divested%20Provincial%20Psychiatric%20Hospitals.pdf
To Cite this Page
Bazar, J. L. (2015). Closing Oak Ridge. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. Retrieved from https://historyexhibit.waypointcentre.ca/exhibits/show/building/closing