Early nursing at the
Calgary General Hospital
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.
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
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.
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.
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.