The beginnings of the healthcare ministry of the Sisters of St Joseph began in Toronto then it moved Northern and to North Ontario starting in Thunder Bay. Responding to a calling in 1851, the first Sisters of St Joseph emigrated from Carondolet /Philadelphia, U.S.A. to Toronto to begin the Canadian foundations.
The story of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie and their involvement in health care in Northern Ontario dates back to 1881 when four Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto travelled to the City of Thunder Bay and began ministry in Northern Ontario planning to teach and work with the poor. In 1884, the Sisters opened a hospital in Thunder Bay. This founding hospital was first housed in the convent and then later in a building of its own, and was created in response to the needs of the times – to care for those injured in the building of the railway. This began a tradition of caring and excellence.
While the first hospitals were staffed by Sisters and a few lay nurses, today’s healthcare centres are staffed by lay people. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie responded to the call for health care in Northern Ontario towns and cities by building and sponsoring hospitals. The Sisters established a Board of Trustees for the Sudbury General Hospital with a core representation of people of all faiths and traditions. Many people joined the Sisters in this healing ministry.
In 1950, the Sudbury General Hospital of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Paris Street, most recently known as St. Joseph’s Health Centre (SJHC), opened as the first English speaking hospital and in 1972 the facility grew from 200 to 360 beds providing the majority of acute care beds in the area. It gradually expanded to provide a full range of health care services to the community.
The Marymount School of Nursing opened in 1953, and operated until 1969, providing excellent training to countless numbers of young women until schools of Nursing were transferred to the Universities and Colleges of Ontario in 1970.
In 1987, following recommendations from the HSRC a contract was established between the Sisters Corporation, and the Regional Hospital for SJHC to oversee chronic care, sub-acute and palliative care in a tower to be constructed at the new one site hospital.
The Government of Ontario’s Savings and Restructuring Act (1996) brought about a change in the role of St. Joseph’s Health Centre. It also prompted an opportunity for the Board of Trustees, under the sponsorship of the Catholic Health Corporation of Ontario (CHCO), to search out unmet needs for health service in the Sudbury area. One of the outcomes of this process was the commitment of the St. Joseph’s Health Centre Board to build St. Joseph’s Villa in 2003 and then St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre in 2009. In 2011, the Health Centre’s vision expanded to include Villa St. Gabriel Villa in Chelmsford as another Centre of Excellence for Wellness and Aging for our community.