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

“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.

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One Comment on “Hospital Too Small Before It Is Even Built & No Money For Supplies”

  1. […] RCH150 Royal Columbian Hospital – 150 Years of Caring « Hospital Too Small Before It Is Even Built & No Money For Supplies […]

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