OMG! Did I Really Look Like That?

Posted November 7, 2012 by rch150
Categories: Community Support, Departments & Services, Doctors, General, Nursing

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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

Posted October 31, 2012 by rch150
Categories: Community Support, General, Nursing

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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.


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

Posted October 24, 2012 by rch150
Categories: Community Support, Departments & Services

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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.

Isolated But Not Alone

Posted October 17, 2012 by rch150
Categories: Departments & Services, Diseases & Epidemics, Nursing

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The process of isolating patients with communicable diseases has varied widely over the years at Royal Columbian Hospital. In 1862 even before the original Royal Columbian Hospital was finished, the Board of Managers had to build a small separate building to house a couple of smallpox patients. There were, at different times, a number of separate isolation hospitals in different parts of the city such as Poplar Island and the area at 8th Street and 8th Avenue near the Douglas Road cemetery. They dealt primarily with smallpox, but patients with any communicable disease could have been cared for there.

In 1908 three isolation cottages were added to the 1889 hospital building for patients with infectious diseases, including scarlet fever and tuberculosis. The 1912 hospital has an isolation ward as part of the main hospital rather than having a separate building for that purpose. However, by 1940 there was no isolation ward at all at RCH and patients had to be sent to Vancouver due to the lack of facilities in New Westminster. Ald. W. Cook lobbied in November 1940 for the Dominion government to contribute toward an isolation ward at least for the army cases in the military wing.

In 1943, the scarlet fever isolation building was renovated and brought back into service. The interior of the building was redecorated, the electric wiring system overhauled, the exterior painted and extra fire escapes added. By the 1960s, there was an isolation ward on the ground floor toward the rear of the old 1912 section of the hospital.

In 1964 an 18-year old young man suffering an infectious disease was admitted to that isolation ward. Thinking back to that time, he now has only vague impressions of the admission process, or the ward outside his room. During the first 24 hours, he was too ill to pay much attention to what was happening, but as he began to feel better, he wondered what was happening outside his room in the general ward. He could hear muffled voices, a child crying, the rattle of equipment, but not much else. Finally the day came that the nurses told him that he had visitors. Some school chums had come to see him, but visiting a patient in isolation wasn’t like seeing any other patient. The patient sat in his room in front of the open window, while his friends or family sat or stood outside on the other side of a wire fence. This way they could see and hear each other without any possibility of transmission of the disease. The system worked well during the summer months, but when it was rainy or cold and snowy it had some pretty obvious problems.

Visiting patients in the isolation ward of Royal Columbian hospital can be an uncomfortable ordeal. To prevent contact with patients with infectious or contagious diseases, visitors are kept outside the building and away from the windows by a wire fence. Among new facilities included in current plans for expansion of the hospital is a new isolation ward with an indoor visiting room. Source: The Columbian Oct 29, 1964

Today, technology makes everything different. Patients in isolation now can still be in constant touch with the outside world via TV, internet, email, etc. – things we all take for granted. But back in 1964, it was an exciting step in his recovery when our 18-year-old patient was told he could have his transistor radio brought in as long as it was in a plastic case that could be properly cleaned, and not a leather case. The disposable earphones provided by the hospital weren’t as good as his own, but now he could listen to the hit parade, his favourite programs, and the news and begin to feel once more part of the world outside the hospital walls. Anything else (books, paper, pens etc.) that was brought in for him had to be destroyed when he was discharged so that there was no chance of “taking the disease out” with him when he returned home.

Today there are isolation beds right in the middle of intensive care wards – the barrier now being differences in air pressure rather than solid walls and wire fences, but the concept remains the same. Give the best care possible to the ill patient, while protecting the general population from whatever has caused the disease.

Modular Building makes debut at Royal Columbian Hospital

Posted October 10, 2012 by rch150
Categories: Building Expansion, Departments & Services, General

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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

Posted October 3, 2012 by rch150
Categories: Building Expansion, Departments & Services, Doctors, Nursing

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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.

First Intensive Care Unit at Royal Columbian Hospital

Posted September 26, 2012 by rch150
Categories: Departments & Services, Nursing

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A brand new concept in medical treatment began at RCH in February of 1965 – intensive care. It’s hard to think of a hospital without an ICU today, but it was a very innovative concept in the mid-sixties. The 5-bed ward, staffed by 2 nurses, with a central ‘command’ post and specialized equipment, was full even before its official opening.

The following article and photograph appeared in The Columbian February 3, 1965.

‘Command Post’ in Hospital Seen as New Life-Saver
by Sydney Orpwood, Columbian Staff Reporter

The critically ill at Royal Columbian hospital are now being speeded on their way to recovery by a new program of intensive nursing. It started this week when a five-bed ward, renovated and equipped for special care, was put into use.

Lives of many patients, which would have been lost a decade ago, can now be saved through the use of special facilities and skills assembled in the new ward. And others who would formerly spend long weary weeks recovering from illness or injury can now be returned to their homes and families much sooner.

The new ward was created through the determination and ingenuity of the medical, nursing and administrative staff at Royal Columbian. “It’s not perfect,” they are quick to say. But each gives the others credit for finding space for the new unit in the crowded conditions at the hospital; for solving the difficult engineering problems in the physical renovations; for visualizing the need and scope of the specialized care, and for providing the human skill and compassion which make it work.

Physically, they started with a six-bed ward in the 1950 wing of the hospital, and re-planned the floor space for five beds. New oxygen and vacuum pipes were snaked through the walls of the building, with outlets at the head of each bed space. A dozen new electrical plug-ins were installed. Garment closets were ripped out, and storage cupboards took their place, to hold a handy supply of all the articles normally needed in a sick room. A command post was added, with desks, telephone, chart space, and one important extra item – an alarm button to summon aid in an emergency.

Visitors from other hospitals and a reporter-photographer team from The Columbian were ushered for a preview of the new ward Tuesday, and found it already in full use. All beds were occupied, and two patients had already made rapid recovery from an illness and an operation through the intense care, and were ready to be moved to standard wards.

Special equipment covered much of the floor space, between the beds and under them. An apparatus manufacturer was demonstrating a continuous cardiac monitor, which the hospital will buy within a week or two.

Getting intense nursing care in a new ward at Royal Columbian hospital is Ian MacFarlene, recovering well from a heart operation. Nurse Beverley Botter is one of six who rotate, two at a time, in the five-bed ward. Equipment is concentrated here, and more is being ordered.
From The Columbian Feb 3, 1965

Recent publicity over intense care wards in U.S. hospitals describes a central monitoring device which can be switched by the nurse from one patient to another. “We don’t care for this type,” a Royal Columbian staffer said. “We prefer individual units. This is the concept we have of intense care – that each patient should be watched every minute of the day and night. We intend, as the need grows, and the money is available, to have more than one individual monitor.”

The ward is staffed by two graduate nurses at all times. Supplies are at hand; they are in communication with the central chart room by telephone; they have their own washroom. Everything has been arranged so there is no need for them to leave their patients at any time. Nurses who will staff the ward volunteered for the work, and were given courses on the special care and the new equipment they will use. Others will be trained, so their duty may rotate.

Doctors who planned four years to see the ward come into existence praise them. “The dedication and skill of these girls is outstanding,” one said Tuesday. “They are the principal reason we are able to take better care of our patients – save more lives, and send them home sooner.”

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