Grande Prairie Municipal Hospital. — 1959 – 1968. — 5.5 cm of textual records.
The Queen Elizabeth II hospital can arguably date its history back to the earliest hospital built by the Reverend and Agnes Forbes in the spring of 1911 at what is now 10424 – 96 Street, Grande Prairie. The “Pioneer Hospital”, as it was called, was a small one room log cabin boasting a single nurse and occasional doctor. At times, the Forbes’ erected tents to accommodate overflow or to provide an “isolation ward.” It became quickly apparent that more was needed.
The community responded with various aid societies, including the Women’s Home Mission Society, raising funds to build a new cottage-style 15-bed hospital. The new hospital had 3,500 square feet, a full basement, and two furnaces. The cornerstone for the Kathryn Prittie Hospital was laid in 1913 and it opened the following year.
In very little time, need once again exceeded capacity. By the time Dr. L. J. O’Brien arrived in 1918, he was adamant that the growing village and surrounding community were ill-served by the cramped and primitive conditions at the log hospital. That O’Brien and the new matron, Edith Hibbs, found the conditions primitive is telling as both survived wartime medical service in Salonika, Greece. In 1921, Hospital District No. 14 was formed representing the Municipalities of Grande Prairie, Bear Lake, Village of Clairmont, and Town of Grande Prairie. The District took over the Kathryn Prittie Hospital. The following year, the municipality took over the hospital under the supervision of the Department of Health.
Despite continual improvements over its short lifespan, the hospital was replaced in 1929. The new Municipal Hospital was built just east of the old log structure. It was considered the biggest and best, west and north of Edmonton. It was a two-story structure built on a concrete foundation. The 40-bed facility boasted private, semi-private, and public wards on the main floor, as well as the general and emergency operating rooms, X-ray, case room, nursery, and sunroom. It had the latest in hospital furnishings and equipment including Scialytic non-shadow operating room light, Acme X-ray with adjustable table, Hawley fracture table, Zeifler maternity bed, and an up-to-nursery. The hospital also boasted a steam laundry, electric light and power, hot and cold running water, steam heat, baths, and flush toilets.
By 1934, the hospital boasted nine nursing staff, as well as a dietitian. Two years later, the first nurses’ residence was built. In 1939, the town limits extended to include the hospital and in 1948, the Medical Wing was added expanding the hospital to 80 beds. Ten years later, capacity grew to 110 with a staff of 78 including 21 registered nurses, four technicians, 16 certified nursing aides, and housekeeping staff.
An auxiliary wing opened in February 1961. This 50-bed facility was the first of its kind to be built in Alberta to provide care for chronic care patients, leaving the main hospital free for active treatment. The facility was known as the Grande Prairie Auxiliary Hospital and Nursing Home. Growth continued. The surgical wing was extended in 1964 with the addition of a third floor and extensive renovations in 1966 brought capacity to 130 bed, plus 27 total spaces in the newborn nursery.
Renovations can only go so far. Construction on a new facility officially began on 1 August 1978 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II turned the first sod at the new site. The 450-bed Queen Elizabeth II Hospital opened on 15 June 1985 as an acute care facility. Two years later, Mackenzie Place replaced the Auxiliary Hospital as a long-term care facility.
These records were originally donated by Isabel Campbell to the Grande Prairie Public Library. The Library donated the records to the South Peace Regional Archives in 2013 as part of Isabel Campbell’s extensive reference collection. The material in this fonds was removed from the reference files after it was deemed archival in 2019.
Scope and Content
This fonds contains records related to the operations of various incarnations of the Grande Prairie Municipal Hospital.
The records consist of board minutes, statistical reports, financial reports, and correspondence detailing some of the medical work, renovations to the new building, and the addition of the Auxiliary Hospital in 1961.
Originally part of Isabel Campbell reference files. The papers were reorganized into their own fonds in 2019.