Early nursing at the Calgary General Hospital

Two doctors had already been practising medicine in Calgary by 1883, but no hospital was available to them. In 1886 a hospital committee was formed, perhaps spurred on by a bequest of $600. A grant of land wasn't obtained until 1889 and the following year, with the hospital still not built, a building was rented and opened as the first hospital in Calgary. The first matron was, unusually for the times, a married woman and her husband became the night supervisor and general handyman for the hospital. They could look after four patients upstairs and four, down. In the building there was also an office and a nurses' dining room that often had to double as an operating theatre.

Perhaps the smallpox epidemic of 1892 spurred them on as in September of 1894 the corner stone was laid for the new building. It eventually opened with Mary Ellen Birtles as Superintendent of Nurses. The training school opened in 1895 with Marion Moodie as its first probationer. At the time she described the old hospital: "The building of Calgary's first hospital had seen the earlier and rougher days of the town, and when taken over as a hospital had bullet holes through some of the doors." This was where she began her training until the stone hospital was completed.

The city grew by leaps and bounds and in 1901 the hospital was moved to another new building across the Bow River and the old one was retained as an isolation hospital. There were now twenty-five nurses on staff at the new Calgary General and eight general duty nurses.

Calgary General has seen many changes over the years. In 1921 the nurses operated a free "well baby clinic" for some time although it was decided that this was not a great location for the babies as it was drafty! When the 1950s saw the restructuring of the relationship between nursing schools and hospitals, Calgary General was one of the first to separate the two functions.

In the 1960s Calgary General had the distinction of having the first Staff Nurses Association certified as a bargaining unit under the Labour Act. And in 1977, it was one of the group of seven hospitals that went on strike under the newly organized United Nurses of Alberta. The strike lasted for six days and then the nurses were ordered back to work.

In 1992 the Bow Valley Centre, the former Calgary General Hospital, was closed because of government health care cuts. Many nurses and other professional personnel were made redundant. The buildings associated with the different parts of the hospital were destroyed by implosion in 1998.
Spacer Alberta Alberta