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  • Vermilion Voice

Islay Hospital History

Hidden behind the trees in Islay stands an old hospital that opened for service in 1912. A history book titled ‘The Hospital On The Hill,’ written by the Islay Municipal Hospital Board details the hospital’s fruition and years of service. Enclosed is an excerpt from the preface of ‘A White Passion’ that reads, “Prairie cottage hospitals assisted by provincial government funds, run on the cheapest lines compatible with efficiency, run in the interests of nobody’s pockets but the patients’, would do as much perhaps as new lines of railway to attract settlers to the West.” According to the book, Jack Lively and his wife Ellen Lively nee Teetgen arrived at their homestead near Islay in 1906. She was a nurse with a certificate in midwifery who received many calls away from home (one from 30 miles north). “In our time travel was by buggy or oxcart over prairie trails, so we didn’t go far afield. Somehow it got out that I was a nurse. I had many call away from home, women asking me to take them into my house for their confinement. I had many more calls than I could possibly care for in my home, and I couldn’t very well leave home, having a small child and farm work to do. There was no hospital between Lloydminster and Edmonton at that time, and no doctor (prior to 1910),” said Ellen Lively in the book. In 1909, her sister, Ada B. Teegen came to help her as she was expecting another baby. The baby arrived safely, but passed away at one month and 10 days old from suffocation (having turned on its face). The book states that a doctor noted that for this to have happened, the child most likely had pneumonia and should have been receiving special care, “of a kind possible only in a hospital”. This event spurred Ada B. Teegen’s resolve to improve the plight of many prairie women. The economic possibility of establishing a hospital in a raw, new country was a challenge, but people in the area supported her. She went on to Edmonton to receive the help of several people including the Lieutenant Governor and Premier Sifton, as well as strangers on the sidewalk, and members of western militia camps. Opening its doors in 1912, the building included a sun room with an X-ray and Basal Metabolism Machine, a nursing station, a maternity ward, a newborn nursery with four regular bassinets and one for premature babies, a ladies ward with four beds, a delivery room, an operating room, a dental room, a waiting room, office, dining room, kitchen, a men’s ward and two semi-private rooms, as well as a two-crib room and the bathroom. The basement contained the X-ray dark room, a root cellar, furnace and workshop, a laundry room, with some of the laundry being sent out by truck. A residence contained three private rooms, two semi-private rooms, a kitchenette, bath and living room; and the hospital included landscaped grounds as well.

In the earlier years there was note of the hospital being closed temporarily, but with wars and a flu epidemic it was a busy place over the years. During the Great Depression there were several accounts that were paid off in “potatoes and berries”, other food items, or written off all together. Blood transfusion service started at the hospital in 1947. As of 1962, the hospital had been open over 15,000 days without a break of any kind.

“While schools, and churches, businesses and homes have seen their lights go out and their people leave them temporarily, life has gone on ‘on the hill’ without a break,” said the book.Over 14,000 patients had been admitted, and 1,700 births had taken place up until then. The hospital remained open until 1962, when a new facility was built nearby.

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