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It was the vision of Sisters who saw hope for the ill and injured. It was the answer to the calls from survivors of war and polio. It was the act of a community who knew that saving lives wasn't enough.

It is St. John's Rehab.

For 75 years, we've been responding to the needs of our patients - body, mind and spirit.

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Historical timeline from 1937 to 2012. Click to open Historical Timeline document PDF

Since its official opening in 1937, St. John's Rehab Hospital has evolved to become a national and provincial leader in specialized rehabilitation.

The hospital's origins date back to the 1884 founding of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, Canada's only indigenous Anglican women's religious order. Within one year, the Sisters were dispatched to Moose Jaw under the request of Lt-Col Darby Bergin, Canada's first surgeon general. Their mission was to nurse the soldiers of the second Riel Rebellion. As part of their nursing care, the Sisters gave psychological support to the men who were homesick and traumatized by war.St. John's Convalescent Hospital, historical image

In 1933, the Sisterhood - who were historically active in health care - responded to the community's need and directed their efforts to a new area: convalescent care. They organized a Board of Trustees under the direction of The Honourable Vincent Massey to finance and plan the construction of St. John's Rehab Hospital (then a convalescent hospital).

May 22, 1937: the hospital opens its doors as the first Toronto-area facility to offer rehabilitative care.

By 1941: the need for recovery care grows exponentially, to the point where St. John's began contemplating expanding beyond its 64 beds.
Following the Second World War in the 1940s, St. John's Rehab offers respite care for recovering Canadian soldiers. This tradition continues into 2012, as we care for soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.
As one of Cummer Avenue's primary residents, St. John's Rehab sought to have Cummer Avenue paved between Yonge Street and the hospital in 1947. Today, Cummer Avenue is a major North York thoroughfare.

1948: we are already a regional provider, caring for 716 patients annually from present-day Toronto, York Region and throughout Ontario. Today, St. John's Rehab has 160 beds and cares for about 2,700 inpatients annually, as well as a comprehensive outpatient program that sees approximately 40,000 visits per year.

1952: a third floor to the original building and theGoodwin Gibson wing opens, increasing inpatient beds to 172.The Gibson wing is eventually replaced in the 1970s by the Gibson Garden, which itself makes way in 2010 for the construction of the John C. and Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre for Ambulatory Care and therapy gardens.

1953: the chapel is built and opens to all faiths and creeds. Its services, along with the counselling of the Sisters, helps patients heal mentally and emotionally.

1959: the hospital receives its first accreditation award in recognition of health care excellence. In 2009, we receive continued recognition of our leadership in rehabilitation care with a three-year accreditation from Accreditation Canada.

Historical image of patients convalescing in beds, wheelchairs & crutches1960: the hospital's active and supportive volunteer Auxiliary is founded. Over the past half-century, the Auxiliary (now known as the Volunteer Association) has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the hospital, and has been one of our most active sources of fundraising support. In the early 1960s, they helped fund the development of our original therapy pool, and have raised funds for numerous facility and landscape improvements. Nearly 50 years later, they reinvest with a $750,000 pledge to name our new therapy pool - built in 2011. Today, our 140 Volunteer Association members and 150 student and adult volunteers contribute more than 21,000 hours of service running our gift shop, lottery desk, community events and assisting staff on the patient floors.

1962: a modern Physical Medicine Department opens, providing a well-equipped gymnasium, therapy pools, facilities for activities of daily living, and rooms for speech, woodworking and ceramics. In 1975, the area is devoted solely to physical therapy to facilitate the establishment of an outpatient department. Renamed the Beatty Wing in 1995, the department becomes an interdisciplinary ambulatory care program. This new format allows patients to return home sooner but still receive the care they need.

1975: the Agnew Wing opens and provides additional space to house and treat inpatients. Large areas are allotted for occupational therapy, activities of daily living and recreational therapy.

1996: the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine steps away from day-to-day administration of the hospital with the retirement of Sr. Philippa Watson, Administrator since 1969.The Sisterhood originally administered the hospital under the leadership of Sister Beatrice Birchall (Administrator from 1935-1954), Sister Vera Bainbridge (Administrator from 1954-1969). The Sisters continue to play a major role in emotional and spiritual care for patients, and as members of the Boards of Directors for both the hospital and foundation.

1997: Formally becoming a teaching site for medical and rehab therapy students, the hospital signs its first affiliation agreement with the University of Toronto.
The hospital begins its tradition of preventing falls with exercise and education for North York seniors. In 1999 and 2011, falls prevention programs are introduced for inpatients and community members respectively.

The 2000s see the development of new specialized rehabilitation programs, including Canada's only organ transplant rehabilitation program, which is launched in 2004, Ontario's only cancer rehabilitation program of its kind in 2006 and the short-term active reconditioning program in 2008. Innovative new outpatient programs include the Step Ahead Rehab Clinic launched in 2004 and the community falls prevention program which is introduced in 2010.

2006: St. John's Rehab Foundation publicly launches the $15-million Rebuilding Lives fundraising campaign to support the redevelopment project, as well as fund treatment equipment, clinical education and rehabilitation research. In 2009 we achieve our goal, marking the close of the largest campaign in our history, and the first since 1937.

2009: a study done at the hospital on the benefits of using the Nintendo WiiTM for therapy leads its adoption in rehab settings around the world. This research has since led to the exploration of Xbox Kinect and virtual reality in rehab.

New entrance to St. John's Rehab2011: we open our brand new facility: the John C. and Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre for Ambulatory Care. The facility is named in honour of the Eatons' $2-million gift to St. John's Rehab. Construction began in April 2010. This 49,000 square-foot addition brings together all of the hospital's outpatient services for the first time, including a new therapy pool, suites to practice activities of daily living, face-mask and splinting clinic for burn and sports injuries. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a dramatic backdrop to the facility's 25 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Existing inpatient treatment areas are now being renovated, and the hospital is being stocked with the latest treatment equipment. The project will be complete in fall 2012.

In 2012: St. John's Rehab Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre become a single health care provider from acute care to recovery.

Today, St. John's Rehab offers leading-edge care for many more of the most complex rehabilitation needs, including recovery from amputations, cardiovascular surgery, traumatic injuries, strokes, neurological conditions and major orthopaedic conditions. We are also home to Ontario's only burn rehabilitation program.

Over the years, St. John's Rehab Hospital has moved towards the forefront of specialized rehabilitation care. To advance people's recovery, we have developed our patient care programs, strengthened healthcare partnerships, developed electronic health records and modernized our building. We teach and learn rehab science and develop tomorrow's technique to help people rebuilding their lives - everywhere.