A Legacy of Care

In 2019, St. Joseph’s Health Care London marks 150 years since the founding of its oldest site – Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care. Today, Mount Hope is part of a large and distinguished family that also includes St. Joseph’s Hospital, Parkwood Institute, and Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care. As one of Canada’s most unique academic health care centres playing a vital role in the health and wellbeing of London and far beyond, St. Joseph’s celebrates an illustrious legacy of faith and caring now 150 years strong.

In the Beginning

St. Joseph’s Health Care London started small. In 1869, the Sisters of St. Joseph opened Mount Hope, a home for orphans and elderly. On the first day, 17 orphans arrived (including 15 London-area children who were living in Toronto while waiting for an orphanage to open in London). By year’s end, more than 50 orphans called Mount Hope home.

St. Joseph’s Hospital, circa 1892
The original Mount Hope (former William Barker residence), west side of Richmond Street between College and Grosvenor streets.

Inclusive Care for All

From its start in 1869, Mount Hope –the genesis of St. Joseph’s Health Care London– welcomed the neglected elderly. One caregiver wrote of the arrival of a farmer:

“When he became unable to work, he was disowned by his family. No one wanted to take care of him or give him a home. He came to Mount Hope and walked the yard repeating the words, “They have turned me out. They have turned me out,” while tears rolled down his cheeks.”

For 150 years, St. Joseph’s has been a place for all people, without distinction.

St. Joseph’s Hospital, circa 1892
Children and staff of Mount Hope pose on the lawn of the orphanage.

St. Joseph’s Hospital Opens

In the late 1880s, a government inspector, impressed by Mount Hope’s caring community, encouraged the founders to open a hospital in London. For $7,500, they obtained an old home close to Mount Hope. On Oct. 15, 1888, St. Joseph’s Hospital opened with 10 beds, four doctors and three nursing staff.

St. Joseph’s Hospital, circa 1892
St. Joseph’s Hospital, circa 1892.

A Growing Legacy

By 1948, after five major additions to its building, St. Joseph’s Hospital could accommodate 300 patients and employed 330 staff members. By now, St. Joseph’s was a major referral centre within Southwestern Ontario, and had signed a formal agreement with Western University to be recognized as a teaching hospital.

St. Joseph’s operating room, circa 1951
St. Joseph’s operating room, circa 1951.

More Than 100,000 Births

Already known as a place where babies were born, St. Joseph’s Hospital pioneered a perinatal unit for high-risk pregnancies in 1967, where miracles happened. Over 100 years, more than 100,000 babies were born at St. Joseph’s Hospital before the perinatal program transferred to London Health Sciences Centre in June 2011.

St. Joseph’s baby registry
St. Joseph’s baby registry, from the earliest days.

A Beacon for Innovation

One of the hallmarks of St. Joseph’s founders was the tenacity and vision to become a beacon for good and a force for medical advances. There would be numerous regional, provincial, national and international firsts over the next 15 decades.

  • 1982: Natural surfactant drug is introduced for babies with immature lungs. It would become one of the greatest advancements in the care of premature infants.
  • 1984: the first Canadian hospital to clinically use magnetic resonance imaging
  • 1990: the second provincial facility to operate a renal lithotripsy unit
  • 1992: the internationally renowned Hand and Upper Limb Centre opens, later renamed the Roth McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre
  • Since the mid 1980s, St. Joseph’s has been the only hospital in the region with a formal treatment program for HIV/AIDS.
  • 2002: St. Joseph’s Hospital and Lawson Health Research Institute receive the first Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography (PET/CT) scanner in Canada.
  • 2007: Surgeons perform Canada’s first robotic assisted radical hysterectomy with a da Vinci Surgical System, marking the national debut of a surgical robot in gynecologic cancer surgery.
  • 2015: The Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Parkwood Institute launches Canada’s first Upper Extremity Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Program.
  • 2016: St. Joseph’s embarks on Canada’s first Zero Suicide initiative, setting a bold goal of reducing suicides and attempted suicides by wrapping care differently around the individual.
  • 2017: St. Joseph’s Hospital becomes the first in Canada to install the Senographe Pristina, a groundbreaking new breast imaging platform designed by women for women to enhance comfort during a mammography exam.
St. Joseph’s Hospital, circa 1892
Dr. Louis Ferreira, researcher at the Roth | McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre.

Pioneers of Mental Health Care

Through the 1950s and 1960s, the mental health hospital in St. Thomas pioneered innovative approaches to support patient care and wellbeing. One such idea was a 463-acre farm on the hospital grounds. Patients planted, tended and harvested crops, giving them an opportunity to produce food for the entire hospital. In 2013, Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas closed its doors and a new era in mental health care began with the opening of St. Joseph's Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care.

Patients planting and harvesting crops through the 1950s and 1960s
Early days of mental health care.

A Royal Addition

In 1984, Parkwood Hospital (as it was then known) opened at its current site where it has become known as a leading centre in veterans care, palliative care, complex care, specialized geriatrics, and rehabilitation for stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, amputations and musculoskeletal conditions.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother attended the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Western Counties Wing at Parkwood Institute in 1989.