Way back in 1929 the pioneers in the Fort St. John area, miles away from medical help, began to feel the need for a hospital.
“Before the opening of the hospital,” reports Mr. Gran”, a man from Rose Prairie limped into the doctor’s office. He had cut off, or partly cut off some of his toes and the doctor performed quite a difficult operation without anesthetic.” Instances like this and more serious ones showed the need for a hospital north of the river.
A hospital board was formed with Mr. M.M. Finch as President, and Father L. Beuglet, O.M.I. as secretary. Mr. Finch presented the site and gave the 10 acres of land needed. The town of Fort St. John and the districts around it were canvassed and the amount of $300 was raised. With this meager sum, Father Beuglet made his way to Midnapore, away down in the Calgary diocese, and generously gave the Sisters of Providence the first opportunity of founding a hospital on the $300 and the donated land.
“There are 97 requests ahead of you”, Mother Rustica, the Provincial Superior, smilingly replied.
“Then I am not leaving this convent until you at least send someone to look the place over”, replied Father. At lock-up time, when the Sisters saw Father Beuglet’s threat was sincere, they gave in and promised an inspection up at Fort St. John.
Result? The inspection touched the Sister’s hearts. Sister M. Gilberte was sent as Superior to make preparations, with Sister Gerard Majella as Bursar, Sister Catherine de Bologne, R.N., and Sister Agatha as cook. On September 2, 1931 all was in readiness and the first Hospital at Fort St. John was opened. Bishop Joseph Guy came up from Grouard to perform the opening ceremonies and Mr. Morrell, government agent from Pouce Coupe, cut the ribbon.
The hospital measured 30 feet by 50 feet and had room for 10 beds. It was two stories high. Although it was September before the hospital was opened, the need in the country was so great that patients had already been admitted. Sister Alfred of the Cross, R.N., and Miss Laura Murphy, R.N., arrived on staff on September 1. The town’s doctor at the time was Dr. H. Brown. The day after the opening of the hospital, the first operations were performed by Dr. Brown with Dr. O’Brien from Grande Prairie assisting.
Money was rare, so for two weeks each year some settler took the Sisters around to collect for the hospital — wood, vegetables, preserves, pastry, etc., and any money received was used to buy medical supplies for the patients. And so, the hospital carried on.
A third storey was added during the highway construction days. Finally on December 13, 1962, the present Providence Hospital was opened with a 100-bed capacity and all modern conveniences.