Providence Care expresses regret over memorial but fails to make it right

At a point you’d think somebody would stop and ask a few questions.

Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father's memory.

Terry Haffner with the stump of the tree planted in his father’s memory.

Last week we reported on how Kingston’s Providence Care cut down the trees and removed the plaques associated with a 25-year-old memorial garden to former staff who had passed away. The removal of the memorial garden was in preparation for a new building to replace the aging mental health and rehab hospitals in the city.

This week Providence Care expressed regret that this had taken place without prior warning or communications to staff and community. They also committed to planning a rededication – that is once they figure out who had once been memorialized there.

Providence Care admits that while an inventory of the trees had taken place, there were “very few existing written records of the memorials and dedications that existed throughout the site.”

In other words, they don’t know.

In a corporate memo sent to staff, the hospital admits that some of the “memorial items” were lost.

“This has caused distress for many people, especially for staff who have strong memories of the persons who were memorialized by the planting of these trees.”

While Providence says it plans to re-establish a memorial, this does not appear to have been the original intent. Despite the start of construction, the memo says they are now planning to “identify areas” of the new hospital where the memorial can be placed. They wouldn’t have had to do that if the memorial had been considered in the original construction plans.

While not making any specific mention of the union that represented present or past workers, the hospital now offers to work “with those impacted” to ensure rededication ceremonies occur.

They also plan to actually keep a record this time of who has been memorialized on the site – less they need to tear it up again in the future.

It must be more than a little embarrassing for Providence Care to have to solicit from the public names of those who had once contributed much of their career to serving patients on the site and who may have once been memorialized there.

As far as mea culpas go, this one is fairly weak.

There is no offer to work with the families, retirees or the union in planning the new memorial. There is no apology. There is no explanation on how somebody could have been ordered to pluck the plaques from the site without any thought to how this would be received. Why were some items saved and others lost? The memo itself was unsigned, although ironically the letterhead sports the hospital’s tag line – “leading the way in compassion and discovery.”

Clearly in this case there was no compassion, and the discovery is now a treasure hunt for precious artifacts that may have been callously tossed.

New CEO Cathy Szabo needs to do better than this.

She needs to involve the families of the deceased, retirees and the union in the planning of the new memorial, not just in the rededication ceremony.

She also needs to explain what happened and seek assurances from the private consortium building the hospital that the ongoing redevelopment is to be undertaken with a more respectful attitude. Clearly someone knew they were taking down a memorial and should have asked questions. For many, this is an important part of bringing closure to the hurt that was inflicted.

She also needs to offer a heartfelt apology to those who were affected by this poor decision, not just put out an unsigned memo expressing regret.

This story has had more hits on our BLOG than any story we have published since we began a little more than four years ago.

Kingston is appalled.

It’s time to make it right.

(If you have any information about dedications and memorials that were once on this site, or would like to be part of the eventual rededication ceremony, please e-mail

5 responses to “Providence Care expresses regret over memorial but fails to make it right

  1. Disgusting but sadly not unexpected
    Both this and your letter “Stumped” dated April 8, 2014 make several comments about the lack of respect Providence Care’s actions show toward former employee’s who have passed away
    Has it occurred to anyone that the destruction of the “Memorial Park” along with our feelings, memories, workplace family, personal friendships and what they represented may be an accurate depiction of Providence Care’s attitude toward their current employee’s at Mental Health Services
    Given the massive changes that will result from the opening of Providence Care’s new building, maybe, just maybe someone needs to look at the destruction of the Memorial Park as workplace intimidation and bullying

  2. Karen Itterman

    This is just another example of the calous attitude shown since the takeover of Providence Care Corp. It has been their mission to irradiated mental health and anything that was attached to the history or caring that took place in Ontario Hospital Kingston.

  3. Karen Itterman

    My comment is merely a personal opinion formed after working for the”new regime” for 6years.

  4. So how many family members were notified that their beloved relative’s memories were tossed in the dumpster after spending many years at this hospital being cared for by the 24/7 nursing staff . We know already how compassionate the PCCC corp. is for the formal employees. What ever this Corp. does to lather over this HUGE mistake, it will not heal family’s memories or retired or present employees.

  5. it is very sad that the great corporation who’s motto is respect, dignity and compassion has failed to show that to our dedicated, hard working and faithful staff both those present and past…my heart goes out to those families and friends affected by this cold and indifferent attitude towards our work family

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