The Brett Sanatorium: developing hospital care in Banff

Dr. Robert Brett, a company doctor for the Canadian Pacific Railway, established the Brett Sanatorium and Hotel in the 1880s, in response to the discovery of the sulphur hot springs in Banff. Their marvelous healing powers quickly became well-known throughout the world and attracted many wealthy people to come and "take the waters." The railway hospital treated workers and others above the billiard hall. When the building was overflowing, heated tents were used and these also came in handy for isolation wards when the epidemics of the time hit.

The story goes that Dr. Brett had a fire lit in one of these tents to house a traveller with pneumonia and it wasn't until someone noticed a strange smell in the area, that they discovered the poor man had been forgotten and had died. Perhaps this spurred the concerned citizens to build a new hospital and the subsequent school of nursing in 1909. Lectures were given to the student nurses by the staff nurses and Dr. Brett and his son, Dr. Harry Brett whenever any of them had the time, and the student nurses received a stipend of between ten and twenty dollars a month.

As early as 1916, the Registered Nurses Act required that the students receive experience in areas not necessarily present at the Brett Hospital and they had to go to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton to complete their third year. The School of Nursing in Banff closed in 1922. In 1915, Dr. Brett (Sr.) had already left to become the Lieutenant Governor of the province; and by 1929, the Sisters of St. Martha had bought the property. The hospital continued under the Sisters and changed its name to the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.
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