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Big River Hospital

Log Hauling

Trees. Trees.

A hospital was one of the first considerations that the lumber company attended to as the "mill town" began to grow. In 1911, a fine hospital was constructed on the site where the Esso Service is today. Part of this same building served as a post office, the first in Big River. The Big River Lumber Company hired Dr. George Fenton of Ottawa to be the resident doctor. Dr. Fenton came with his bride, Mary, and they made their home here from 1911 to 1923. Dr. Fenton was a true pioneer doctor, who, along with Nurse Dewar, attended to the medical needs of the people for miles around. Many times they traveled by dog team to get to camps and homesteads, or flew into the far North when the need arose. During this time of the Spanish Influenza epidemic, Dr. Fenton worked tirelessly to bring healing to all he could in that time of stress. Many babies arrived into this part of the world, delivered by the good doctor in the private homes of the early settlers. The Fentons remained remained here until the Lumber Company left and the town was sold. They then returned to Ottawa, where Dr. Fenton resumed his practise.

Dr. George Fenton.
Dr. George Fenton.

The hospital was completely destroyed by fire in 1923, and for many years after that Big River was without a hospital. For a time Dr. Cyr came from Debden, traveling by jigger on the railway tracks. Mrs. Pierre Belisle was an excellent midwife, and she also gave room and board to patients who were convalescing or who needed to remain in town for medical treatment.

Some of the nurses who served in this community in the early years were: Mrs. Matilda Kelly, Mrs. Stephenson, Mrs. Mae Gilbert, and Mrs. Laura Beeson. Not until January 20, 1947, was a hospital board formed with the goal of trying to have a hospital built here. The committee members were Leo Lloyd of Erinferry, Henry Pederson of Lake Four, Philippe Laurin of Bodmin and Jack Phillips and Jack Dolmadge of Big River.

Mrs Matilda Kelly, Registered Nurse - 1918
Mrs Matilda Kelly, Registered Nurse - 1918.

Remodelling the Air Base mess hall into the Red Cross Hospital.
Remodeling the Air Base mess hall into the Red Cross Hospital.

Realizing the need for a hospital, plans were made with the Red Cross to utilize the Ladder Lake Air Base mess hall. This large lumber building was moved to the beautiful location of the present hospital, overlooking the Village and Cowan Lake. Here it was remodeled into an eight bed hospital, having two public wards, an operating room, an office, a nursery, and two bright, sunny verandas jutting out on the front side. The hospital was known as "The Red Cross Outpost Hospital". It was officially opened November 11, 1948, in a ceremony attended by Colonel F.W.G. Miles, Regina Red Cross commissioner and Honorable R.F. McIntosh, Minister of Municipal Affairs. Our hospital was the twenty-third Red Cross Hospital in Saskatchewan to be opened under Red Cross auspices. Dr. Afanasieff was the first doctor of the new eight bed hospital, while Miss North was the first Matron. A few years later, Dr. Norman Crux came from Elfrose and took over the medical practise as Dr. Afanasieff retired. Miss Lidget was the Matron at that time.

Big River Union Hospital.
Big River Union Hospital.

Nurses Residence.
Nurses Residence.

In 1950, the Union Hospital was formed, and in January of 1951, the hospital was turned over to the community and renamed the "Big River Union Hospital". In 1959, a west wing was built onto the existing building. Beds were moved into the new section, and the older part was used as a service area. In 1964 - 65, this part was demolished and a new east wing was constructed, making it a twenty-five bed hospital. The nurses residence was built the same year.

Resident Doctors serving this hospital have been Dr. Klitz, Dr. Oldroyd, Dr. Klass, Dr. Eaton and his wife, Dr. Young, Dr. Wezelman, Dr. Sanderson, and the present Dr. Shukla and his wife Dr. Shushma.

Mrs. Ev. Charlton was Matron for a number of years. Mrs. Lil Randal is the present Matron.

Mr. Jim Hartnett is Hospital Administrator.

Red Cross Hospital.
Red Cross Hospital.

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Author: Webmaster - jkcc.com
"Date Modified: July 2, 2024."

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