LTE – Dawn Ford asks Hospital Board to show some Compassion for the Cornwall General Hospital Site

Dawn Ford, R.N., Retired
Dawn Ford, R.N., Retired

Dear Editor:

I have been watching with great interest the debate going on about the sale of the Cornwall General Hospital. It is personal to me because I am a grad from that hospital. There seems to be so much talk about a building as if it was an old library or arena. It is a hospital and still shelters patients who need to be there. I think the reason it means so much to a lot of us is because people we love and have loved were treated there for their illnesses, babies were born there and family members died there. Miracles happened and some didn’t, despite our pleas and our prayers. It isn’t just a building and it isn’t just sentimental trite. Many families sat in the old building entrance surrounded by stained glass windows and looked at the round fish tank praying with all their hearts for their sick loved one.

As part of the medical team we laughed with joy at a new birth or recovery, and we cried, sometimes with deep sorrow in our hearts as we stood at the bedside of a dying human being.

My favorite thing as a student nurse was being able to be a scrub nurse in Obstetrics during the delivery of a baby. That meant the doctor and I wore sterile clothing and gloves, etc and I could help in some small ways as the baby was born. I could have done that for the rest of my working days. It always filled me with awe and wonder to see this tiny new person with little hands and feet emerge and cry it’s little heart out, coming from a safe warm place beneath it’s mother’s heart.

I also remember being on a 3-11 shift on Pediatrics where a malnourished abused baby had been admitted and was fighting for her life. Despite the efforts of a pediatrician and intern, medicine couldn’t save her and she died. When it came time for my shift to end, no one had arrived to claim the body of this little baby. My supervisor told me that I had to take the body to the morgue. I cried all the way carrying this precious little body. We all went home with holes in our hearts that night. It happened so many years ago and yet I remember it still with tears.

One night the security suard asked me to go into a cardiac patient’s room to get him out of there because a bat had flown into the room. As I looked into the room I saw that the sleeping patient was oblivious to the bat flying around. Believe me, I am as nervous of bats as anyone but this had to be done and I knew if the bat came too close to me it would hit my nurses’ cap before my head. So with a prayer, I gently woke the man, I told him that a little bird had flown into his room and the guard needed to rescue the bird .We could help by going to another room. We could hear the bat’s wings flapping and wheezing above my cap. We got him out safely so the guard could deal with the intruder. When we went to work on any shift, we never knew what we were going to have to deal with.

No, this is not a building of cement and bricks, nor is it a liability for the government. This is a spiritual place of hope, love and gratitude to all the staff of every department who have ever had a hand in helping the people we have loved. It belongs to all of our citizens of Cornwall. We need to keep it out of love, remembrance and respect.


Dawn Ford , Retired R.N.



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  1. Dawn I rarely respond to a LTE, but this was an amazing letter you wrote. Thank you for having us publish it.


  2. Great story Dawn told from the heart.We all need to keep this building in the family, The people in Cornwall built it,fine that the Government funded the hospital …but the building is mine, it,s yours too & more than just bricks, It could well be used for many community minded projects. How about a homeless shelter, & or a community meeting place for seniors, anyone for that matter,play cards,learn how to operate a computer,just having a reason to get out more. Maybe even a co-op residence where live in rooms for volunteer to help other live in paying guests who need assistance with their daily living,it could be a pay-it-forward venture where volunteers would be assured a room with help provided by newer volunteers etc etc,the city could help out with this.Just thinking out loud……

  3. Dawn,

    What beautiful comments you make,regarding our beloved General Hospital . Your eloquent words, rekindled many memories of that great institution ! You brought back to life, many of those memories for me .
    Of course, we must be dilligent to the costs, budgets & the end usage of keeping such a facility, but I truly feel, that this process (sale) is moving way to fast & causes me great concern !
    Hopefully, a stay of execution, could be arranged so that all avenues can be investigated thoroughly ?
    History, will always be the best score card, the sale of Cornwall Electric, Big Ben, the Capital Theatre, to name a few, are still being argued locally ?
    This fire sale must be stopped !

    This fire sale

  4. Thank You Dawn for your comments. Your request for compassion is what a community should be all about.

    I hope the Hospital Board and Administration will read your letter and review their decision to fast track the sale of the General Hospital before a full study in done by a task force on the health needs of our communities in SDG.

    To facilitate this happening, the main players that must be at the table are the Minister of Health representative with a directive to make this happen. Other players must include the Hospital Board, the LIHN and Community leaders. They must hear first hand from a new local task force the plight of our Seniors and other health programs that are needed in our communities of SDG.

    I enjoyed reading your column weekly and you are the voice of our Seniors.


    Councillor Andre Rivette

  5. Well said Mr Rivette,can,t help but wish that you were our mayor,you really bring the common sense to council…Thank You Sir!!!
    Does anyone know if the General hospital has any grave sites from mass deaths & illness? Kingston had grave sites from Irish immigrants at their presence General site,I remember hearing a few years back that it was discovered after graves being paved into a parking lot.I think sale should be stopped til this is answered.

  6. Is a nice story. Heartfelt.

    The site is an abandoned baby.

    However, the hospital spokespeople are accurate in saying they’re not in the LTC business but the acute.

    Maybe we could all go to council and ask for $$$ to conduct a feasibility study to find out whether it could transformed into a longterm care or assisted living facility.

  7. And thank you, too, Andre Rivette for your fearless honesty.

  8. Dawn ,

    Thank you for a the heartfelt letter.

    I have talked to a number of second street site nurses who are gravely disappointed with the potential loss of the second street site.

    Andre Rivette thank you for your contribution to the article .
    Your interests in the viability of the second street site show you serve constituents and your community well.

    Sir the community welcomes our City Council ,Provincial and Hospital representatives to work together to find a greater purpose for this fine institution that is the second street site.

    Our population in Cornwall is one of the fastest aging cities and becoming a “retirement” community.

    As more of our retired move to Cornwall :Council ,Provincial and Hospital officials have an opportunity with the second street site to put forth a plan that would take in consideration the changing demographics of an aging population.

    Lets hope all interested parties work together for the benefit of our elderly.


    Christopher Cameron RN

  9. Dawn and Anddre, you bring to the table celebrations that we all revere. Thank you.

    We do have a right to hold our views. We also have reason for our viewes.

    Cavalier comes to mind as to how the sale process has slammed the citizens of all our local counties in this matter.

    Touching words Dawn, bring to life a past many hang on to. Again, thank you.

  10. The CCH is not in the LTC business , end of story. So let us all in the community move on and deal in a logical and reasonable fashion to address the immediate and future needs of our aging population. The building is well located no doubt but the decision to close this facility was in all likelihood made long ago in a far away place ( Toronto ). Maintenance of the structure has not therefore not been a the top of the budgetary list for a number of years. The possibility of entering into an agreement which would see the Cornwall taxpayers taking on yet another white elephant project scares the hell out me. Let passion and need pave way for reason to determine the direction we should take. The old hospital needs to be retired as an institutional site having fulfilled its purpose in favour of the next best use project. Since these properties are owned by the taxpayers of Ontario it is the opinion of this author that the municipal ratepayers should hold the right of first refusal when they do come up for disposition.

  11. A beautiful Letter to the Editor, Dawn thank you for sharing. I wonder if the premises could be turned into a retirement home and thereby alleviate the overcrowding in the search for adequate living space for retiree’s? The residents would effectively be paying the City of Cornwall (hint, hint) so it would not be a burden on the city. Something to think about!

  12. Thank you Dawn. I am an oldie who remembers the old front of the hospital. I was a candy striper there as well as at the Hotel Dieu and loved every minute of it helping people.

    The job of a nurse is one of the hardest jobs out there and you described things so beautifully. Thank you for the beautiful memories of the General. The General should be turned into a place for the people – the elderly and can also be a place to accommodate clinics. People don’t need a place geared to the rich and famous but to the ordinary citizens of the community. Thank you again for such a nice story. I will always remember the General the way it used to be and what it really meant to the people of Cornwall and surrounding area.

  13. Mariah no not a homeless shelter at all. You have no idea what comes from this.

    I would like to see this place as a home for seniors who cannot look after themselves any more. I am for clinics as well if that can be accommodated but I am for the seniors.

    My mom died in that hospital and I am crying now over that.. I am too emotional just now and in tears. I can’t see the keyborad. I was born there as well. I have to stop because I just can’t continue. That hospital means a lot to me and to the community.

  14. There are people with good intentions looking at this place. It could service many segments of our society.
    Let’s not forget that the building inspector and fire chief and the thousands of codes that would have to be applied. I bow my head to anyone serious about taking this on.

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