A black and white image of an old house. the main entrance is recessed and has an archway. The three-story home is symmetrical with a tower-like section on either side. the house number is 331. The top of the image says "(Georg) Can Tor- Charities- Home for Blind 331 Sherbourne Street"

Healthcare Legacies: Mon Sheong Home for the Aged

Mon Sheong Home for the Aged

A black and white image of an old house. the main entrance is recessed and has an archway. The three-story home is symmetrical with a tower-like section on either side. the house number is 331. The top of the image says "(Georg) Can Tor- Charities- Home for Blind 331 Sherbourne Street"

Original Central Hospital Building, 331 Sherbourne Street, June 9, 1920. Image by H. James. Courtesy of The Toronto Star Archives and the Toronto Public Library.

A tan brick building with a recessed entryway. The building is rectangular and has columns at the front near the center of the wall.

Rekai Centre’s Wellesley Central Place, 160 Wellesley Street East, December 19, 2022.

A large brick building. The photo is taken from the right of the building, looking up. There are Chinese characters on the building and the front says Mon Sheong Home for the Aged.

Mon Sheong Home for the Aged, Toronto, June 15, 2022.

Culturally Specific Care

Beginning in the mid-20th century, there was a shift towards understanding how culture and language plays an important role in medical care. Prior to this, most formal healthcare in Ontario was provided largely in English or French. All patients in a hospital or clinic were provided with similar food or activities, regardless of a person’s cultural background. 

In the early 1950s, brothers John and Paul Rekai escaped Soviet-occupied Hungary and emigrated to Canada. Setting up a small medical practice, they soon noticed that patients often preferred medical professionals who could speak their own language. The Rekais also noticed that patients were more relaxed and comfortable when served food that was from their own cultural background.

 

 

The Central Hospital

By the late 1950s, the Rekais had put their observations into practice, opening up a hospital on Sherbourne Street. Known as the Central Hospital, it boasted a staff that could cater to patients from diverse backgrounds. Staff translators could provide healthcare information in over 35 languages. Caregivers focused on each patient’s cultural background and medical practices to offer culturally appropriate service whenever possible. 

A Chinese care home

The success of the Rekai brothers at the Central Hospital inspired others in Toronto to adopt culturally appropriate practices of care. Opening in 1975, Mon Sheong Home for the Aged was the first home of its kind designed to provide “culturally specific care” intended to serve the Chinese community in Ontario.

Mon Sheong Home provides care for seniors, those with physical or mental disabilities, and those with dementia, largely through the work of the Mon Sheong Foundation, a charity that has operated in Toronto since the 1960s. The name of the center and home comes from the a legend of Lord Mengchang (or Mon Sheong when translated into English), a man who lived in China in approximately 300 BCE and was famed for his generosity.