Hospital Buildings and Health Care
October 1860, saw the arrival of the Grey Nuns and the beginning of the health care services in the convent dispensary of St. Bruno. On July 23, 1888, Sister Marguerite Brabant came to take charge of the pharmacy. In May of 1889, one doctor came from Regina, the first one to come to Ile-a-la-Crosse to vaccinate 300 children against smallpox. Their long and noble service to the people of this area was formally recognized by the authorities, following severe epidemics of influenza and typhoid fever, when at last the first hospital as a separate building was erected in 1927 by the Provincial Government of Saskatchewan and the Department of Indian Affairs. It could accommodate 20 patients. The official opening was on April 11, 1928. The local administration was left to the Oblates. Sister St. Adolphe assisted Dr Amyot on his visits to the school children. March 18, 1928, was the opening of the Doctor's Office at the hospital. The first visit of a dentist was in March 1933.
In 1936, in order to avoid problems of all sorts and to alleviate expenditures for the needed maintenance and repairs to the building, both governments relinquished their rights and transferred the ownership of the hospital property to the Apostolic Vicariate of Keewatin, Bishop Martin Lajeunesse, who likely inherited the many headaches entailed.
A second larger hospital, known as St. Joseph's Hospital was built in 1958 and was located directly behind the church. It has a capacity of 45 beds. It was also administered locally by the Oblate Fathers and operated by the Grey Nuns. Oblate Brothers, skilled in many of the building trades, together with local labour, did much of the structural work under Father Joseph Chaput's wise direction. No serious accidents occurred during the construction credited to the intercession of St. Joseph. The first baby, Marie Marguerite Therese, was born at St. Joseph's Hospital on March 30, 1958, to Mr and Mrs Thomas Daigneault.
August 20, 1958, was the official dedication of the hospital. On that occasion, a substantial donation was received from the Catholic Church Extension Society of Canada and presented by its President, Msgr. McDonagh. In design and structural qualities, the new hospital ranked among the best for the north.
Sisters, doctors and lay registered nurses and nurses aides, both men and women, have for many years been dedicated to the ministry of caring for the sick, the dying and the needy, supported and encouraged by their priests.
The renowned charitable doctor and surgeon, Phillipe Ernest Lavoie, is also remembered for his nineteen years of services at the Hospital, 1934 - 1953. He is especially remembered as having been a faithful parishioner and a Christian gentleman, a lover of humanity and a very caring person.
He died February 17, 1954, and was buried February 20th in the cemetery of Ile-a-la-Crosse, next to his father.
June 4th, 1967, A special papal decoration (Bene Merenti) was awarded to Dr H. Hoffman in recognition of his services. In 1973, Dr H. Hoffmann retired from St. Joseph's Hospital after 20 years of medical services. His wife, Eva, died and many trials followed.
In summary then, this is a brief history of the Hospital of Ile-a-la-Crosse: initially, it was a one-room hospital in the convent house; then a larger house with three beds; then another two-story building with 10 beds, and another with the same capacity; and today's hospital with 45 beds. There were years of growth and progress at the hospital in spite of controversies, difficulties and problems of all sorts. its survival is due to a great number of dedicated people who stood strong and firm because of their courage, determination and selfless interests.
Today, 1996, St. Joseph's Hospital, by definition, is an institution owned by the Catholic Health Council of Saskatchewan since March 17, 1977, whose administration is done locally according to the Council's stipulations. The Saskatchewan Health Care Association is a voluntary, non-governmental one. It is a trustee-based association of health care organizations, which functions as the principal advocate for its membership and services, and assists members in carrying out their roles effectively within the Saskatchewan health care delivery system. The hospital has grown out of its infancy from the time that the sole ownership and administration was in the hands of the Catholic Mission - 1860 to 1977.
The Mission Beneath The Cross
and Crosses Raised
Bishop Grandin planted a cross in 1858 that was particularly significant to the population of the time. June 4th, 1875, the mission was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a second cross was raised on June 20. Again, after the 1885 exile from Ile-a-la-Crosse, a cross was raised at Cross Island in memory of this trying event; this cross can still be seen today. Yet again a cross was raised in 1899, A fifth cross was raised on June 16, 1911, on the occasion of Bishop Charlebois' first visit to Ile-a-la-Crosse.
Fires, Floods and Tragedies
That first winter of 1846, in early October, influenza broke out violently among the Natives and a great number of men, women and children died. Illness claimed about one-third of the population.
March 1st, 1867, Fire claimed the mission house which was also Bishop Grandin's residence, the orphanage, hospital and utility buildings. All food reserved for the orphanage and the mission and all personal possessions were a complete loss. The Sisters helped save the orphans awaking and dragging them out of their warm little beds to be rushed out barefooted, with very little clothes for protection against the cold and the snow. Brother Bowes saw the result of all his years of hard labour disappear in a few hours. Another house was built and ready by March 1867, but it was too small and only temporary, therefore, the Oblate Brothers, along with some local people, succeeded in building another house with larger classrooms and more space for hospital beds.
In 1885, the Riel reprisals forced the missionaries, the Grey Nuns, the sick, the children and their families, and employees to leave Ile-a-la-Crosse for Cross Island, close to Patuanak. This brought delays in the progress of evangelization and resulted in great material losses. Beyond the material losses were the fears and heartaches which would long endure. After spending a month in exile, living under the tent, a message came announcing their safety to return to the mission.
1887, Influenza claimed 29 victims and again in 1890, more were among the victims.
1897, Yet another fire ravaged the farm.
July 1901, Heavy rainfall flooded the mission buildings and gardens and as a result the Sisters' convent and the school, now very unhealthy places to live in, needed replacement. The summer of 1902, saw the worst flood.
In 1903, there was another epidemic of scarlet fever and smallpox that brought many young children to their graves. Scarlet fever in November 1912, claimed 34 victims.
Before 1905, four Grey Nuns and a few Oblate priests died of tuberculosis. Deprivation and hardships of all kinds weakened even the hardiest. The area became for them an "Island of Misery". The Grey Nuns had no choice but to leave Ile-a-la-Crosse.
December 1917, Seven young men left to join the Army while the war was still in progress.
1918, was remembered as the year of the Spanish flu that claimed 40 heads of families. This meant added concern and much work for the Grey Nuns who had just returned less than a year ago. Again in 1920 - 21, a severe epidemic of typhoid fever swept the area and approximately 100 died.
April 1, 1920, During Holy Thursday celebration a fire destroyed the convent and student residence and worst of all a little handicapped girl perished. There were 25 boarders left to be sheltered and cared for.
September 29, 1921, There was great consternation among the residents when three young schoolboys drowned along with Sister Cecille Nadeau (29 years old) who had attempted to save them.
February 26, 1926, The convent and student residence were destroyed by fire. Yet another convent-school had to be rebuilt; the chapel of the convent was blessed that same year, on October 25th.
June 22, 1941, Sister Eugenie Lamoureux also drowned in an attempt to save the little Mary Laliberte.
April 1941, While the people were gathered for mass, a fire broke out at the hospital. Fortunately, the damages were not too great thanks to the Brothers who did all they could to save the building.
December 19, 1954. Fire and water damaged the doctor's residence.
March 19, 1964, Another fire happened on the Mission grounds; the boy's boarding house and hall built in 1946 were destroyed in two hours. Sixty boarders had to be housed elsewhere. By September, the parish hall and a residence for 70 boarders were rebuilt.
November 23, 1967, Three boys, boarders at the school (George, Ronnie and Jerry), drowned with their parents, Gordon Ellis and Adeline McCallum on Russell Bay as they were heading for home.
October 28-29, 1972, Part of the school on the west side, comprising 12 classrooms, was destroyed by fire. Only on December 5th, could the classes resume with a staggered schedule; trailer classrooms had been set up on December 1, 1973.
During the 1980s, the village was rocked as a CF-5 fighter jet crashed into Ile-a-la-Crosse Lake about two miles south of town on a routine training mission from Cold Lake. The pilot, 30 year old Captain T. A. McKenzie, died in the crash. Fortunately, the village and hospital were overflown.