Information by Mrs. W.S. Bullen and the Women’s Auxiliary, 1973
By 1921 there was a hospital at Pouce Coupe but the growing population of the area required additional medical services. The Pouce Hospital had its problems and shortcomings and the citizens of Dawson Creek felt it was time they got one started to serve their own village of 400 and the farming area around it.
In November 1930 the people moved their townsite to meet the railroad. In a permanent settlement destined to grow, a Hospital Committee was formed in 1931 spearheaded by Father Serrand and Mr. W.S. Bullen. They canvassed the countryside receiving pledges of labour, supplies, money and support. The women of the community banded together for the purpose of raising funds to help build the hospital. By September of 1931 they had raised over $1,000.00.
The people pressed on and soon obtained the land on which to build. Mr. Callahan, manager of the Northern Alberta Railroad donated four acres on the south bank of Dawson Creek. By mid-October the basement excavation was almost completed. Much of the labour and materials were donated. People worked for a dollar a day or less and gave half back to the building fund. Early in November the lumber for the framework arrived and the Women’s Auxiliary began a tremendous effort raising funds. On Christmas Day 1931 the framework was up and progress continued on all fronts. Many merchants gave money and with a loan of $5,000 from the bank the committee saw their way through.
As the hospital was nearing completion, the people were confronted with another problem — who was to run the hospital? During construction Father Serrand was traveling through Canada on business and it had been agreed on beforehand that he seek the help of one of the religious communities to run the hospital.
Father Serrand approached the Sisters of Providence and at first they refused. Many others had asked for their help, they were short of personnel, and many were ill, so the situation looked bad. There weren’t any other organizations to take the job. However, after more consideration, and more pleading from Father Serrand — and at the insistence of Bishop Joseph Guy — the sisters accepted the challenge.
Despite many obstacles, three Sisters got off the train in Dawson Creek on August 30, 1932. They were Mother Praxedes of Providence [Provincial Superior], Sister Marie Ange, R.N., who was to be the local Superior, and Sister Louise Alma. The next day they set to work. Later more arrived and also some came down from Fort St. John to help out, some of them being housed at Mrs. Bullen’s.
On November 30, 1932, the 20-bed hospital was officially opened. Mr. Bullen, in his address to the public, said that during the past year the Women’s Auxiliary had raised over $1,000. To this someone remarked that the name of the village should be changed to Donation Creek. But this was no laughing matter. The efforts of the entire community were indeed a feat of supreme courage and will. One must consider what the pioneer lifestyle was like and how little money was around at that time to comprehend just how much $1,000 meant. Sister M. Ange, the first Sister Superior, praised the work of the Auxiliary.
Power was supplied by and electric generator owned and operated by the hospital. The first babies born were Ann (Moran) Linklater and Giles Dudley. In January 1944 the Women’s Auxiliary was reorganized by Sister Alcibiade, the new Superior.
Due to the Alaska Highway construction, the population had increased and the hospital was forced to expand. Soon it had a capacity of 30 beds and new equipment was needed. In October of 1944 the 1,000th baby was born in the hospital.
By the mid 1950’s Dawson’s population was about 9,000 and the little 30 bed hospital was obviously inadequate.
Delegations from the Hospital Board were sent to Victoria to push for a new 72 or 100 bed hospital. In March 1958, a plebiscite was called. The vote for the new hospital was overwhelming, thanks partly to the efforts of the Junior Chamber of Commerce with their “Get out and vote Campaign” and the services of the Women’s Auxiliary.
With the hospital approved the W.A. once again set to work and pledged themselves to completely furnish the pediatric ward and the nurseries at a cost of $10,000. This time money was a little more plentiful and the government assisted the people. The new 100-bed hospital was officially opened on July 22 1961.
Date of foundation November 30, 1932
Capacity at that date 23 beds
New addition May 12, 1949
New capacity 34 adult beds, 5 children’s beds. 11 bassinets
New Hospital July 22, 1961
Private Rooms 5