Archive for the ‘Building Expansion’ category

Modular Building makes debut at Royal Columbian Hospital

October 10, 2012

New two-storey medical wing of Royal Columbian hospital hides the ancient original building from view of passersby on East Columbia street. The new building was erected in a nine-month crash program to replace a structure dating back to 1912 and now condemned as a fire hazard. Entrance is at far right. Photo from The Columbian Oct 6, 1971

From The Columbian newspaper, Oct 6, 1971

The long-awaited modernization program of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster takes its first tangible step tomorrow with the official opening of a new building for medical patients, constructed in a crash program from factory-built modular components.

The Modular Building, as it is named by hospital authorities, will accommodate 153 adult patients and 21 children for a total of 174.

The accommodation is to replace an ancient structure first built in 1912 and now condemned for hospital use by fire officials. A major portion of the 1912 building is to be demolished and eventually equipped for Royal Columbian’s role as the principal referral hospital of the lower Fraser Valley.

The modular building, though considered temporary, and designed to be dismantled and moved to some other community in the future, is nevertheless completely and well-finished and equipped. It has a full basement, with storage, heating, garbage and laundry-handling facilities, and two nursing floors. It is connected to the permanent buildings by two covered walkways, for comfortable movement of patients, staff and meals. It has some private rooms, but the majority of patients will be housed in nine to 12-bed wards, with the usual movable drapes to give privacy to each bed when required.

Comfort of the patients is assured by new and up-to-date beds and other furnishings. Each bed has its own lamp, hooded to prevent glare in the eyes of other patients. Each has a nurse call switch, which lights an indictor at the nursing station and over the bed. All have piped oxygen outlets, and a plug-in for cable television.

Construction started on Jan. 20 this year, after many other plans for expanding and updating the hospital had been made and turned down by regional and Victoria authorities because of cost. The modular unit system was finally chosen and approved because of speedy construction and the possibility of dismantling and moving the building at some future time. Prime contractors, Van Construction of Burnaby, built the 80 modules in the firm’s own shops, trucked them to the site, and fitted them into a steel framework erected on the basement foundation.

The majority of the modules are 10 ½ by 40 feet, and had electric wiring and piping systems installed and ready for hookup at the plant. On-site jobs included exterior cladding, roofing, flooring, installation of fixtures and trim, and decorating.

Cost came to approximately $28 per square foot for a total of $2,395,000, only slightly higher than a comparable wood frame or cement block building, and considered well worth the extra amount for the gains in time and portability.

The building is designed to accommodate patients suffering an illness, rather than those hospitalized by injuries or for surgery, who require more of the sophisticated electronic equipment for their care. The modular unit has no operating room, x-ray or cardiovascular equipment. Patients requiring treatment in thee departments will be taken to the main building through the connecting corridor.

But every facility to help provide the best nursing care has been included. Nursing stations are large, with an attached “medi-prep” room with stainless steel fixtures. They are fitted with intercom to all wards, call system and convenient storage for patients’ records. Each floor has its own food service center, with an ice-making machine, refrigerator and other facilities for serving between-meal snacks. Each floor has day rooms for “up” patients to lounge and receive visitors.

The children’s ward is at one end of the second floor to eliminate through traffic. Isolation for patients with communicable diseases is in the same location on the first floor, but has an entrance from outside for visitors, locked for control.

From related article:
The present remodelling was done in order to relocate offices, medical records, the cafeteria and other service departments housed until now in the portion to be demolished. Virtually untouched in the present program is the central building constructed in 1950, containing 235 patient beds, the operating theatres, and the trauma unit added recently.

Total patient capacity in the 1912 and 1950 wings of the hospital was 445, until remodelling forced removal of 53 beds temporarily. When the modular unit replaces the 1912 wing, capacity will be stabilized at 409. Planners speak of the possibility of topping-off Royal Columbian with a capacity of 700 in the future.

“Space-Age Equipment” In 1969 Trauma Unit Will Save 20 More Lives A Year

October 3, 2012

From The Columbian, June 25, 1969
Photos by Basil King

Gain: 20 Lives a Year

More than three years of fund-raising, planning and construction to create a sophisticated trauma unit at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster have ended with the installation and activation of the space-age equipment pictured on this page.

With head nurse Penny Saunders as “patient” assistant technical supervisor Keith Putland is positioning an X-ray viewer machine designed for tracing damage to blood vessels and veins. Doctors watch in view screens like the one at right, and can record on video tape or film. Brain damage is charted on units which are positioned beside and beneath the patient’s head, while harmless dye is injected into the blood stream. The machine Putland is holding revolved a quarter circle for vertical, horizontal or diagonal views.

Movie films from machine above are processed in this developer being operated by student technician Barbara Berry, left and technician Marnie Whittaker.

Sparked by a $100,000 donation from the P.A. Woodward Foundation, pushed along with an equal amount in business donations and topped off with a matching government grant, the $400,000 treatment unit is designed to give immediate diagnosis and speedy treatment to the hundreds of patients brought to Royal Columbian each year from the scene of bloody industrial and highway accidents.

Head nurse Saunders, in her own working realm, is demonstrating on a dummy some of the life-saving procedures available to her. Dummy has a head injury. Tracheotomy tube is used to assist breathing, heart monitor is strapped to the chest. A stomach wound is bandaged. Bed is equipped with traction bars for fractured bones, electronic heart monitor on wall, built-in oxygen and vacuum outlets and intense lighting. Behind nurse Saunders is glass-walled isolation room which can be kept sterile and the air maintained at positive or negative pressure.

Staff doctors who pressed the campaign to raise funds and find space in the crowded old hospital estimate that the new facilities will enable them to save 20 lives each year which would otherwise be lost because of serious injuries.

The unit has two parts – a four-bed intense care ward with every available nursing aid built in for instant use – including electronic heart and blood monitoring and a sterile-air room for burn victims, and a special procedure area with some of the world’s most advanced X-ray devices for observing and recording pictures of damaged internal functions.

Rotating X-ray machine being operated by technical supervisor Harry Oancia with assistant head nurse Pat McGuire as “patient” prints half-circle view of head bones in one flat film, and was developed by a dentist. One three-second exposure gives better picture than many films by other techniques. Semi-circular film holder at Oancia’s left hand swings in front of patient’s face when machine is operated.

These pictures were taken during a “dry run” of the trauma unit on Monday. When it is declared operational next week, following opening ceremonies today, the patient ward will be staffed on three shifts by 19 nurses and a supervisor who will also look after the hospital’s other five-bed intense care ward, and the X-ray rooms may have a dozen or more doctors, nurses and technicians working to pinpoint injuries in time to treat them while there is still time.

Beautiful New Hospital Building – Completely Empty!

August 29, 2012

In 1912, when the cornerstone for the third Royal Columbian Hospital building was laid, the world was a very different place than it had been in 1889, when the second hospital was built.

During that 23 year period, antitoxins for both tetanus and diphtheria were produced for the first time, the world’s first open heart surgery was performed, the X-ray was discovered, ASA (Aspirin) was perfected, and Novocaine was introduced into clinical use. On the local hospital front, RCH and the Women’s Hospital merged, the RCH School of Nursing was established, and a maternity cottage was opened on the RCH site. In New Westminster, the first electric lights and the City’s first waterworks system came into service, regular streetcar service between New Westminster and Vancouver was established, the first local bridge across the Fraser River opened, and almost the entire downtown area was destroyed by fire.

In March 1913, Jessie Scott, Lady Superintendent, returned from her extended trip to eastern Canada to determine what equipment and supplies would be needed for the new hospital (see last week’s post). Furnishings and equipment, at a cost of $30,000, had to be ordered soon in order to be installed for the expected opening that August. The $100,000 from the Provincial Government and the $130,000 from the City was strictly for construction and could not be used for furnishings.

Fundraising activities began in earnest. There was a huge barn dance in Queen’s Park with special cars on the BC Electric Railway to bring people to the event; there were concerts at churches and at theatres, there were contests and parties, but it still wasn’t enough. In September 1913, the local paper reported that the Bank of Montreal might advance $70,000 on unsold bonds to complete construction, but that could not be used for furnishings.

The cover story on October 17, 1913 put it very starkly, “Hospital is in Quandary: Faces Necessity of Vacating Old Building But New is Not Furnished” The old hospital had been condemned. Construction crews were anxious to begin work on the remaining two wings of the new building and were pressing for the old building to be vacated so it could be razed, allowing the new construction on its site, but still there were not enough funds for furnishings, supplies and more nurses to care for the expected increase in the number of patients. Specifically, they needed furnishings for the kitchen, dining rooms, nurses’ quarters, rooms for staff and for the operating room. Individuals and societies had committed to furnish eight of the twelve private wards, and one of the five public wards would be furnished by Mr. & Mrs. P.D. Roe of Port Moody at a cost of $1,200.

A ward was furnished in the name of A Creighton


It was becoming very clear that few if any of the other municipalities in the district would contribute financially to the hospital, though they all expected to send patients to it. The Board appealed directly to the citizens of New Westminster “to come to the rescue”. The fundraising campaign sent personal letters asking for subscriptions to groups, companies, “employees of mills, factories and business houses”, teachers, “hardware men, clothiers, butchers, and fishermen”.

A ward was furnished by school children

Slowly the response began to build. The Red Cross Society committed to furnishing the children’s ward; other groups took on furnishing a private or public ward; companies committed to providing supplies for the private rooms. More fundraising events took place: “The Queen of Bon Ton Land” at the Opera House raised $174.05, and a Cinderella Dance at St. George’s Hall raised enough to furnish one ward. The RCH Auxiliary scandalized the town by holding a Tango Tea at the Russell Hotel at which Mrs. Lester and her partner gave exhibitions of the tango and the hesitation waltz, in spite of raised eyebrows and fears that “the morals of the nation are degenerating”. Most importantly, it raised $147 for RCH. The final goal was met when the Bank of Montreal agreed to lend the Board $10,000, giving them enough to furnish and equip the main part of the building.

A ward was furnished by Hugh Nelson

By the end of March 1914, the third car of furniture was being unloaded, and the electric fixtures and other minor elements in the new building were being installed. By April, the required connections had been made, and the paper excitedly reported that “the new hospital building will be warmed entirely by electric heaters”.

Finally the official announcement came – the new hospital would be open June 1, 1914. Almost all areas were furnished on time except the operating room, but they moved the old O.R. equipment to the new site and prepared to open anyway. The only minor hitch was having to seal up the skylights of the two operating rooms as dust and dirt was sifting down from them into the room..

Celebrations marking the formal opening of the new RCH were held May 29. There were speeches, a tea, and a dance in the evening in the main ward that was “comfortably crowded with over 100 guests”. As part of the festivities, the ever-practical Auxiliary held a “Jam and Jelly Shower” that afternoon “as the hospital is getting very short of these dainties”. “Some 100 quarts of jam were donated, plus a similar amount of jelly, a pair of flannelette blankets, two sets of books, several table clothes, tray covers and napkins, as well as small money donations.”

Only two weeks after the opening of the first two wings, the paper reported that “so many additional patients have been admitted during the past two weeks, that it is necessary to open the third floor”. Recognizing that the work of providing funds to keep the hospital operating had only just begun, groups continued to hold events, donating the proceeds to furnish other wards, hire more nurses and buy new equipment for various departments such as the brand new laboratory. It was and is a never-ending challenge, continued today by the current Auxiliary and the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation.

Hospital Too Small Before It Is Even Built & No Money For Supplies

August 22, 2012

“1912 Royal Columbian Hospital” – actually opened in 1914


Hon. Henry Esson Young, M.D., Provincial Secretary and Minister of Education, laid the cornerstone of the new Royal Columbian Hospital December 11, 1912. It had been 50 years since the original hospital was built at the corner of Agnes and Fourth streets in the downtown area of New Westminster.

The Hospital Board president, Mr. J.J. Johnston, described the evolution of the hospital to 1912, “I…remember the little white hospital at the corner, which was considered quite sufficient for the needs of the day. The city has grown and with it has grown the hospital. Later, when the original building was considered too small, the present building was erected, which in turn has now also proven to be inadequate to supply the needs of this growing city. The Royal Columbian Hospital as an institution stands high in the opinion of the people of this city and the surrounding district.” He thanked the various levels of government for providing funds to rebuild, but also said, “There is nothing we need and nothing more helpful than the kindly interest of the public citizens.”

He thanked Knox Presbyterian Church for committing to pay to furnish one of the private wards, which would be known as the Knox Ward, and encouraged all other churches to provide similar support.

He continued, “We are laying the corner stone of a magnificent building… but the only difficulty appears to be that already it is intimated that it will be too small. We have enlarged on the original plans, and while it was estimated that the building would cost $200,000, it is now certain that the cost will be nearer $250,000.”

After the usual speeches, Dr. Young finally performed the official act, “I declare this, the corner stone of the Royal Columbian Hospital, well and truly laid.” With this Dr. Young tapped the granite, covering a well-filled receptacle of records, local newspapers and lists of officials. That cornerstone was kept intact when the 1912 building was demolished and it now mounted on the wall in the lobby of RCH, between the RCH Foundation office and the information desk.

NWPL 513

A copy of the British Columbian of Dec. 10, 1912 is taken from time capsule in cornerstone by RCH assistant medical director Dr. Norman Rigby, left, and associate director Frank Butler. Worker Lothar Weimann is an interested onlooker. From the Columbian, October 12, 1972

The new hospital had three floors and a basement, with room for 170 patients. It had steam heat, a trash-burning incinerator that also heated hot water, an elevator to take patients to the operating room on the top floor, a central diet kitchen and a 10-bed children’s ward. But it took a lot longer than anyone could have anticipated to get the hospital furnished and open to care for patients.

One of the individuals responsible for getting the building operational was Jessie Taylor Scott, usually referred to as Lady Superintendent. On December 27, 1912, she left on a trip to eastern Canada “where she will acquire ideas concerning the most modern methods of fitting up a hospital and other information that will be useful in the construction and equipment of the new hospital building”. She returned in February 1913 with a full list of supplies and equipment, but the Board did not have the funds to buy most of it. The money contributed by government was for the construction of the hospital only and it could not be used for furnishings or supplies. It would be well into 1914 before the doors were officially opened to patients.

Next week we’ll describe some of the problems they encountered and how they overcame them. Problems like the fact that they had to vacate the old building that had been condemned by the Grand Jury, but the new one was not furnished and there was no money to do so. Problems like carloads of furniture were delayed once they did get the money to order them and critical supplies for the Operating Room were still missing when it was time to open. Check back next week to read the details.

Royal Columbian Health Care Centre – “The Un-Hospital”

July 4, 2012

Royal Columbian Health Care Centre Opened August 8, 1978

On August 5, 1978, The Columbian newspaper extolled the virtues of soon-to-be-opened Royal Columbian Health Care Centre in an article entitled, “Latest Equipment Featured in Royal Columbian Complex”. It said:

“The old ‘Royal Columbian Hospital’ is a thing of the past. In its place stands a modern, bright new building with the very latest in equipment to provide for the health care needs of the Fraser Valley. Even the name has been changed. This new regional referral hospital is called the Royal Columbian Health Care Centre – though those who have been involved in the planning of the new structure realize it may take years before people accept the new name.
The idea behind both the building and the name change was to make the Centre as “un-hospital” as possible in an attempt to dispel any fears harboured by some people of entering a hospital for treatment. The “un-hospital” atmosphere and surroundings, the planning committee hopes, will make such people feel more relaxed and optimistic in a setting with which they are familiar.
Manifesting this idea is the entrance to the new health care centre which has been designed along shopping mall lines. The décor is colourful, one wall depicting the colour code for each floor.
The second floor of the new building has been devoted to critical care. This is a unique concept in hospital planning permitting the integration of highly complex procedures which meld specially trained personnel and sophisticated equipment into an organized, centralized intensive treatment area.
The Special Procedures (radiology) component is one of the most advanced in North America with over a million dollars being spent on the equipment in this department alone.
The pediatrics department is bright and cheerful. It has a separate lounge and an outside rooftop play area (with a strong, high fence) where youngsters who are well enough can be more active than is normally possible in a hospital.
Patients in the maternity department can watch the children at play through the large windows or they can go down to the other end of the maternity floor near the nursery and enjoy their own rooftop patio.
Plans are to furnish the latter area with lawn chairs and tables so that maternity patients can feel more at home with their visitors.”

The actual opening of the Health Care Centre on August 8, 1978 was the occasion of a visit by both Prince Philip and his 18-year old son Prince Andrew.

Prince Philip and Prince Andrew at opening of Royal Columbian Health Care Centre

When they moved toward the platform, accompanied by the Hon. Grace McCarthy, Provincial Secretary and Minister of Tourism, Robert H McClelland, Minister of Health, Muni Evers, Mayor of New Westminster and Bernard Martin-Smith, Executive Director of RCH, they were greeted by an honour guard of 160 staff members, each department represented on a proportional basis. The ceremony, which included music, speeches, tours and ribbon cutting, went smoothly as planned and the following day, most newspapers, while mentioning the event, focussed on the fact that the “tall, tanned Prince Philip” had piloted the RAF Andover plane from Victoria to Vancouver and even driven his own yellow Rolls Royce!

Prince Philip Waves After Taking the Wheel of his Yellow Rolls Royce

How Do You Move a Hospital? Very, Very, Carefully.

May 16, 2012

Anyone who has moved from one house to another knows how stressful that process can be. Packing and planning often takes as much energy as the move itself, and then there’s the settling in period – unpacking, finding just the right spot for that special vase, discovering that a child’s favourite toy has mysteriously disappeared – it all can be pretty overwhelming.

Now imagine doing all that for an entire hospital. RCH, like most hospitals, has demolished, expanded, and re-configured wards and even whole buildings many times over its history. In most cases, patients lives were disrupted very little – they were simply wheeled from one room to another, and things went on as usual in a newer, brighter, more modern setting. But in 1890, the staff and Board had to figure out how to move the whole hospital – furniture, equipment, supplies and patients – right across town.

By 1889, the original hospital that had opened on Agnes Street in 1862, was well past its prime and a new structure was built in Sapperton. There’s a description of the new hospital in this earlier blog post. The new hospital was supposed to open in September, but that was overly optimistic. On October 2, the Columbian newspaper reported that the Board was still soliciting donations to “assist them in furnishing” the new hospital and it was not until February 13, 1890, that the New Westminster Truth newspaper was able to report:

“Yesterday morning Wintemute Bros., put the last of the furniture in the new Royal Columbian Hospital at Sapperton. During the afternoon the patients from the old hospital were conveyed in carriages to their new quarters. There were seventeen of them, ten being confirmed invalids and unable to walk, and three were blind.”

Then, to add a little excitement to the already stressful time of settling in and adjusting to new quarters, less than two weeks later, on February 26, the new building very nearly burned down. The Colonist paper reported that the fire “was caused by soot gathering in the eaves trough, which was ignited by a spark from the chimney. The fire was not discovered until it had burned through the roof, and then only by a wakeful patient, who heard the crackling of the flames. The alarm was given, and the patients were immediately removed to a house across the street.”

Pioneers of any town are tough – they have to be to survive and flourish. But after struggling to get the new hospital built and furnished, then planning and carrying out the move across town, only to almost lose the whole thing to a fire, even the toughest Board or staff member might have been forgiven for second guessing the whole venture.

We’re very glad they stuck with it. Built on the foundation of 150 years of caring, today Royal Columbian Hospital, a UBC teaching hospital, is a provincial centre and regional referral hospital providing specialized care for trauma, cardiac and neurosciences for 1.6 million people from Burnaby to Boston Bar and for seriously ill and injured people from across the province.

RCH Parking Goes Hi Tech in 1973

May 8, 2012

Automation arrived at the Royal Columbian Hospital in 1973 – well, to the parking lot, at least.

The May 3, 1973 edition of the Columbian used this photo by Basil King to show that the blacktopping of the enlarged parking area had just been completed. To defray the cost of the operation, automated parking ticket machines were being installed at the East Columbia St. entrance. Technician Mike Wienerroiter was putting the final touches to the ticket machines in the photo. A hospital spokesman said it would then be another week before the machines were fully operational.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – that sign really says 25 cents!


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