By Paul Schratz
When St. Vincent’s Hospital was shuttered in 2004, Catholic health officials promised it wasn’t the end of Catholic health care on the site.
On Wednesday that vision became a reality with the long-awaited news that a 13-storey long-term seniors residence will be built on the former hospital property.
The new St. Vincent’s Heather residence will bring 240 new long-term beds to the Lower Mainland.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller joined B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix for the announcement of the residence, which will include 20 “households,” each accommodating 12 residents in single-bed rooms. The residence will have social and recreational spaces such as living and dining rooms and activity spaces. Each room will have a wheelchair-accessible ensuite, while some specially designed suites will have connecting doors so couples and families can live together.
St. Vincent’s Heather will have community spaces on the main floor with recreational, social, and health services for residents, families, visitors, and staff, the government said. The residence will have a community hall, a cafe, a non-denominational sacred space for worship, reflection and spiritual practice, hairdressing services, a creative, exercise and therapy space, a 37-space child care centre; and dental and health care services.
Fiona Dalton, president and CEO of Providence Health Care, said Providence’s goal is “transformational change in the long-term care sector,” as it tries to drive innovation to create conditions to provide the very best care to seniors and the frail elderly – support residents to live their lives with freedom, choice and dignity. That means transitioning caregiving from a task-based approach to a resident- and family-directed approach.”
Dr. Ken Tekano, director of seniors care at Providence and Vancouver Coastal Health, said older adults in B.C. “have historically been neglected by our system of care and housing for those affected by neurocognitive disorders and other complex medical and social needs.”
“I am thrilled that Providence is being supported by the Ministry of Health and Vancouver Coastal Health to advance our mission to provide dignified homes and a new approach to caring for seniors with these challenges. I hope this is only the first of many steps forward to a new way for people to live with dementia.”
A Providence spokesperson said the new home will focus on those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, though not all residents may be suffering from such conditions.
Speaking at the announcement at Honoria Conway, adjacent to the site of St. Vincent’s Heather, Dix said, “As people age, they want to know they will have access to the right care services that will allow them to stay healthy, active and safe in their community.”
St. Vincent’s Heather “will offer vital long-term care for seniors and wraparound services that will support their happiness and well-being in a home designed to meet their needs,” he said.
Because it will be a Catholic-run residence it will not be required to make euthanasia available on-site, a Providence spokesperson said. After the federal government legalized assisted suicide in 2016, Dix and the B.C. government mandated that all non-religious, provincially funded facilities must allow doctor-facilitated suicide on their premises.
St. Vincent’s Hospital, founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception, served Vancouver’s sick and suffering for 65 years before it was closed in 2004 with the announcement it would be transformed into a new “campus of care” providing services for seniors.
In 2008 the Honoria Conway seniors residence (named after the SCIC’s founder) became Providence Health Care’s newest facility, a four-storey assisted-living residence with space for 60 seniors and eight adults with disabilities.
In 2015 the Archdiocese of Vancouver moved its John Paul Pastoral Centre onto the property.
For nearly 20 years, the several-acre site has sat empty, occasionally being repurposed for parking and more recently as a busy COVID test site.
Rezoning with the City of Vancouver is expected to be complete this summer, with construction expected to start in fall 2025 and end in fall 2028.