Nursing in the Rockies: Seton General Hospital, Jasper

It is certainly one of the prettier settings for a hospital and perhaps it makes convalescing easier, but the medical care still has to be given. The earliest hospital in Jasper was a large tent on a wooden frame. There were only fifty or so people in the town by about 1913, and they were being served by two railway doctors coming from Pocohontas and Lucerne. Records also show that an isolation hospital existed in the teens and twenties that dealt with a flu epidemic in 1916 and scarlet fever a few years later.

It took increasing tourism and the president of the CNR to get things moving. After his tour of the West in the late 1920s, Sir Henry Thornton suggested to the medical personnel of Jasper that they investigate the possibilities of building a hospital. He put company money behind his suggestion and pledged twenty-five thousand dollars towards the cost of building and an annual grant of twenty-five hundred dollars towards its maintenance.

The hospital, originally known as St. Martha's opened at the end of January 1930. It was managed by four Sisters of Charity who came from Halifax. The name of the hospital was changed to Seton in honour of the foundress of their order. Operating the hospital was difficult in its early stages as the Depression took hold. The reduced taxes and extra loads of wood from the federal government were gratefully accepted.

As Jasper grew, so did the hospital. A second floor and extension were added in 1952, and another wing was added in 1964. Ownership had been turned over to the Sisters of Charity in 1953, but with health care re-organization, it became part of Jasper General Hospital District #87 in 1971. The following year the foundation was laid for a new hospital and the patients were moved into the new building in May of 1974. That new building was the winner of several architectural awards for its unique design.