Archive for the ‘Community Support’ category

Christmas Through the Years at RCH

December 19, 2012

This week’s New Westminster NewsLeader had a great story and photo of Santa arriving at Royal Columbian Hospital by helicopter, bringing Christmas smiles and cheer to patients and staff. It wasn’t the first time he had arrived by air ambulance (see From Buckboard to Sikorsky),

Santa arrives at RCH Heliport 2005

Santa arrives at RCH Heliport 2005

and it certainly wasn’t the first time that people in the community had worked to bring comfort and cheer to hospital patients.

From the very beginning of the hospital in 1862, individuals and groups in the immediate vicinity and throughout the colony, worked hard to assist the patients and staff in any way they could. Most often this entailed raising funds, but it also frequently entailed personal gifts and entertainment for the patients. The Vancouver Sun in 1922 tells us that “between 90 and 100 patients at the Royal Columbian Hospital will receive tasteful little boxes packed with candies and fruits Christmas morning from the women’s auxiliary to the hospital.”

The newspaper in 1912 tells of the Women’s Auxiliary gathering donations to buy presents for the patients, while the local Boy Scout troop visited the hospital, toured the wards and distributed “presents of fruit and Christmas cheer”. The following year, in 1913, the Auxiliary placed baskets in local stores so that local residents could place donations in them – “candies, fruit, magazines, books, toys” that were to be distributed on Christmas Day. Also that year, a group of 30 young ladies held a “Cinderella Dance” (a dancing party that was to end at midnight) on December 26th to raise funds for RCH.

In earlier years, we see an even more personal involvement on the part of the general population. Just before Christmas of 1882, some Board members were in the hospital “inspecting the accounts” when they heard “the melody of sweet voices that filled one of the wards. On making inquiry they discovered that two ladies, well known in the city, are in the habit of calling on the patients and soothing their sorrows with vocal music”.

In the first decade of the hospital’s operation, there was often a grand ball or soirée held at the Drill Hall just before or after Christmas to raise funds for the hospital. In 1865, according to the local newspaper, the Ball was a great success, both socially and financially. There were very elaborate decorations, chandeliers and lamps that made the Drill Hall almost unrecognizable. About 100 people attended, “the ladies’ dresses were elegant and tasteful…. while the music, under the able leadership of Mr. Bushby, lent a charm to the whole.” And, although “no regular supper was provided” because the Board wanted all proceeds to go to the Hospital, “dancing was kept up till 2 o’clock with great vigour and all appeared to enjoy the occasion.” The sum of $150 was raised and added to the hospital funds.

In 1882, the patients in Royal Columbian wrote a letter to the editor including all their names, that said, “We, the patients in the Royal Columbian Hospital, herewith return our heartfelt thanks to the kind friends who so thoughtfully provided for us the bounteous dinner on this Christmas. To Mr. Jackson, the Steward of the Hospital, and the ladies who so ably assisted him in setting it before us in so tempting a manner, is due great praise and our grateful remembrance”.

Than, as now, when help was needed, individuals responded, and all contributions, large or small, were very much appreciated.

Do You Remember RCH in the 90s?

November 28, 2012

A couple of weeks ago we posted several photos from a photo album of Royal Columbian Hospital events in the late 1980s and 90s, and asked if anyone recognized the people in them. We had an overwhelming response and many requests for more photos.

Here are a few from the same album. It’s amazing how many of the people in the earlier photos are still around – maybe some in these are too.


This one is the only one fully captioned, so we know it’s Dr. Gittens showing some of the neurosurgical equipment in March of 1998, but we don’t know what the event was.

This was taken at the official lab opening January 21, 1997, but there’s no name given.

And this is just captioned MRI 96 10 01, so we assume it was the opening of the MRI unit we described in a post here in October.

The following 2 photos are from the Surgery Open House Day December 01, 1991 and obviously represent Plastic Surgery and Orthopedics respectively, but we don’t have the names of the doctors.

This last image was taken at the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the RCH Foundation in 1993. Just can’t work for a foundation without being an expert at serving at cake!

Again, if you know any of these people, or can add details of the event shown, please share your comments.

OMG! Did I Really Look Like That?

November 7, 2012

Old scrapbooks and photo albums are a great way to learn about the past. If they’re fully captioned and labelled, they can be a great source of information, and if they’re not labelled at all, well, they can still be fun. A large photo album came our way recently with lots of unlabelled photos of past events designed to raise funds and public awareness at Royal Columbian Hospital in the mid-to-late 1980s and ’90s.

Many are pretty self-evident, but some are a little puzzling. We’re hoping that some people will recognize themselves or others in the following, or at least be able to tell us more about the event at which they were taken. Even if that doesn’t happen, they provide a great glimpse at the kind of events that were happening about 25 years ago.

RCH Fundraising Thermometer Being Installed on Woodward’s Roof 1988


This “thermometer” was installed on the roof of the Woodward’s store at 6th & 6th in uptown New Westminster in 1988 to keep track of funds raised for Royal Columbian Hospital. The slogan was “Catch Our Fever: It’s Your Turn to Care” and the top of the thermometer showed $6.0 million – did they reach it?

1989 Get-Away Van

This Get-Away Van was the Grand Prize in a fundraising project in 1989. Not sure why this man is having his blood pressure taken – did he just win the prize?

Raymond Burr as Key-Note Speaker 1988

There was great excitement when the famous New Westminster-born actor, Raymond Burr, visited RCH in May, 1988. Here he is shaking hands with then-Mayor Tom Baker, while Norm Grohman looks on. Burr has just finished his key-note speech.

Raymond Burr Chatting With Staff

Raymond Burr obviously enjoying a friendly chat with RCH staff in the cafeteria.

CKNW Orphans Fund Presentation

Jim Fair, President and CEO of RCH, explains a piece of equipment to Judge Tom Fisher in an undated CKNW Orphans Fund presentation – probably 1988 or 89.

The following 5 photos were all taken at the Surgery Open House Day December 01, 1991 at which almost every department had a table or booth, or was open to the public. It was obviously very successful judging by the crowds in other photos in the album. Recognize anyone?

The sign on the wall may say “It doesn’t have to hurt”, but the young man in the red sweater doesn’t look very convinced.

Auxiliary volunteers always at the centre of the action!

Certainly a happy group!

Even with all those balloons, some of that equipment looks pretty scary.

She looks like a natural, so did she eventually become a surgeon?

If you know any of these people or attended these events and can add details, please share your comments.

Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary

October 31, 2012

Among the many thousands of events the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary has held in support of RCH over the last 110 years, one of the most poignant was a tea to honour the student nurses when they received their caps. The following article appeared in The British Columbian in the early1950s, describing that year’s ceremony.

HOSPITAL AUXILIARY FETES STUDENTS AT ‘CAPPING’ TEA

LIGHT OF MERCY was lit anew at Royal Columbian Hospital Friday night as 16 preliminary nursing students attended a “capping ceremony” and were admitted to membership in the student nurses’ association. The ceremony is symbolized by the lighting of a nurse’s candle by a senior nurse as the student receives her cap. Pictured from left are Miss Irene Templeton, Matsqui; Miss Phyllis Brown, chief instructress; Miss Elizabeth Clark, superintendent of nurses; Miss Molly Pickton, New Westminster. Miss Pickton has just been capped.
Undated article in 1949 The British Columbian

A delightful mid-week social event was the “capping” tea held this afternoon by the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary to honour the student nurses who will receive their caps tomorrow evening at the hospital capping ceremony.

Mrs. Wiliam Stewart, 520 Third Street, gave the use of her home for the party. The hostess was assisted in welcoming the 39 nurses by Mrs. W.R. Brewster, auxiliary president, and Mrs. G.N. Matthews who were in charge of the tea arrangements.

Spring flowers adorned the living room, and the lace covered tea table was centered with a low plaque of daffodils and yellow mimosa. Tall tapers burned in silver candelabra. Miss Helen McGillivray was in charge of the tea table. Presiding at the urns for the first hour were Miss Eleanor Graham and Mrs. J. Gartside. Their places were taken by Mrs. C.D. Peele and Mrs. C.R. McMillan.

Assisting to serve were Mrs. R. McDowell, Mrs. Douglas Quinn, Mrs. H.C. Lennerton, Mrs. Molly Nixon, Mrs. T.R. Selkirk, Mrs. M. Lane, Mrs. J. Wilson, Mrs. S. Wilder, Mrs. G.H. Worsley, Mrs. W. Phillips, Mrs. C.E. Rook and Mrs. H McCauseland.

Mrs. Douglas Phipps was in charge of the capping register, and the drawing for the registration prize. Tea cups were read and there was also fortune telling by palm reading and cards.

Other events were usually intended to raise funds which would then be used to purchase equipment for the hospital. The following photos described some of the preparations for the 1950 Country Fair. That year, the fair realized $5,000 which the Auxiliary used to completely renovate the RCH children’s ward.

FLYING PAINT BRUSHES – There are gay touches on the novelties being readied for the Country Fair by Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary members pictured. Mrs. William Gifford is winding raffia around the neck of a glass jug and Mrs. L.F.C. Kirby is studying a glass design watched by Mrs. U.G. Gilroy. Standing is Mrs. Mel Lane who has designed the patterns used. The group was working, when the picture was taken, at the home of Mrs. Mack Flett, who is painting a glass. The fair takes place at the city market on the night of Nov. 6, commencing at 7 p.m.
The British Columbian Oct 26, 1950

DOLLS AT COUNTRY FAIR – Mrs. H.G.F. Warner, Mrs. H.R. McCausland, and Mrs. J.E. Hannah have worked busily at the McCausland home putting the finishing touches to the dozens of dolls and cuddly animals that will stock their booth at the Country Fair tonight at the city market. About five kinds of dolls are included and there is also a dog and an amusing zebra. The Eva-Jean doll is the wide-eyed blond; Topsy Turvey next to her will delight any moppet. (Note: this doll depicted a white child one way, and a black child when inverted).

Held on November 6, 1950 this 7th annual fair featured a booth with hand-made Christmas decorations. The members made miniature moulds of tiny animals, trees, houses, churches, bells, Santas, choir boys, angels and other figures associated with Christmas. After the moulds came the work of casting the figures, drying and painting them. There were also booths featuring home cooking, knitting, dolls, novelties, and toys. Raffle prizes included a live turkey donated by the Queen’s Park Meat Market, a beautiful doll’s house, a “radio phonograph”, a silver tea service and tray, a Warren K Cook suit and $100 worth of canned goods from Westminster Canners Ltd.

Monster Magnet

October 24, 2012

In light of the opening of the new Multipurpose Interventional Suite this week, it interesting to look back a mere 16 years to another major new piece of technology. In June 1996 some pretty dramatic images recorded the installation of a $2.3 million Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit planned to improve diagnostic services at Royal Columbian Hospital.

A Royal City Record/NOW article explained that MRI is a non-invasive imaging technique that produces cross-sectional pictures of the head, body and spine without the use of X-rays or radioactive materials. MRI uses strong magnetic fields and radio frequency waves; a computer processes the signal information and displays it as an image on a video screen.

On June 4, a 90-ton crane helped hoist the 22,000 lb magnet into the hospital, where it would be housed in a specially protected room in the Medical Imaging department. The magnet had a magnetism of 10,000 gauss (the magnetism of the earth is 0.5 gauss).

Workers, above and below, position the machine as they attempt to move it into RCH.
Source: Royal City Record/Now June 5, 1996.

RCH, the referral hospital for diagnostic services for all residents of the Fraser Valley, would then be the only hospital in the Fraser Valley with the MRI service. The first patient was scheduled to be scanned on September 3, 1996.

The renovations for the MRI room and support areas cost $513,000, which was shared by the Ministry of Health (60%) and the Greater Vancouver Regional District (40%). The MRI equipment cost $2.3 million, with the Ministry of Health contributing $1.38 million and the RCH Foundation contributing the remainder.

‘Cat’ Scanner Gives Doctors A Peek Into Living Brain

September 12, 2012

When Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays in 1895, he opened a new and miraculous world in which scientists could “see” inside a living body.

Today, most medical imaging departments include radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, photo acoustic imaging, ultrasound, echocardiography, breast thermography, computed tomography, and bone densitometry .

But in 1980, a major first was about to arrive at Royal Columbian Hospital – a brand new brain scanner. An article in the Vancouver Sun of February 16, 1980 described the scanner, what it could do, and why it had been ordered in spite of the hospital not having the money to pay for it.

Dr. Ladislav Antonik, Medical Director of RCH, said, “It’s a revolution in medical science. The scanner lets us see inside the body in a way that was impossible before…What it will mean to patients and doctors is obvious. The brain is not given to exploratory surgery, but nothing is hidden from the scanner and surgeons now won’t need to probe in the dark.”

RCH had been promised a brain scanner, but it wasn’t going to be a G.E. 8800 series, which Dr. Antonik declared was the finest money could buy. The provincial government was only prepared to come up with enough money to buy an Ohio Nuclear scanner similar to those installed in some hospitals in interior B.C – about a third of the price. But New Westminster’s hospital at that time handled 20% of all provincial traffic victims – more than any other hospital in BC. The Ohio Nuclear model took two minutes to scan a brain section, while the GE machine did it in 4.8 seconds. It was obvious that the more expensive machine was the one needed, but they were about $172,000 short and the scanner was due in a month. They had some major fundraising to do!

To pay for the scanner, the hospital received about 1,800 individual donations totalling about $176,000 to add to the provincial government’s $165,000 contribution and the Greater Vancouver Regional Hospital District’s $55,000. The hospital district also donated $90,000 toward the cost of the lead-lined room that housed the scanner.

On June 2, 1980, the Vancouver Sun published an article entitled, “Stuffing Ballot Box Helps Buy Scanner”. It described how one resident had borrowed a municipal ballot box and taken it to the BC Penitentiary during its open house to collect donations. “She raised $1,500 in three days,” New Westminster Mayor Muni Evers told the gathering of more than 120 people at the long-awaited official unveiling of RCH’s new computerized brain scanner. “That’s the most legitimate way of stuffing the ballot box.”


The doctors and technicians were eager to put the scanner into operation. The article quoted Dr. Andrew Tan, looking at a series of x-ray negatives taken of patient’s brain. “These will save us a lot of unnecessary surgery,” he said, referring to the prints from the brain scanner. Dr. Tan, who would assist Dr. Ken Kaan in operating the brain scanner, was examining the case of a young patient who had been involved in a car accident. Comatose and showing no movement on the left side, the patient would have had to undergo a cerebral arteriogram for doctors without access to a brain scanner to determine if a blood clot had formed, Dr. Tan said. That would have meant an hour delay in treatment and there would not be the kind of accuracy in locating a clot as there is with a brain scanner, he added. “As you can see by that white area,” he said, pointing to the scanner’s picture, “a large blood clot is pressing against his brain, which explains why he is comatose.”

X-ray technologist Walter Adamus
taking scan of Royal Columbian Hospital patient.
The Columbian August 7, 1980


In a further article on August 7th of that year, The Columbian reported that since its installation in June, the RCH scanner had done 451 examinations and already there was a waiting list. Today, the medical imaging department at RCH performs 23,000 CT scans a year.

In 2010, RCH received a new 256-slice CT Scanner, requiring only a fraction of the radiation dose required by the previous generation of scanners. A scan from head to toe can be acquired in about 10 seconds. This speed can be extremely important for time-critical exams for small children, trauma and areas of the body that move, such as the beating heart. The scanner produces 256 slices of information during each rotation, which takes 0.27 seconds, a far cry from the 4.8 seconds to produce a single slice in 1980.

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.


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