Last Resort: Hospital Care in Canada
Hospital, Toronto, ON, 1868
William Notman (1826-1891)
1868, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
10 x 8 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Architecture (8646) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678)
Keys to History
For Canadians today, hospitals are part of a way of life. While we find it perfectly normal to be born and to die there, this was not always the case.
In the 19th century, hospital births were very rare. Most deliveries took place at home, attended by a midwife or, for the wealthy, a doctor. The few existing maternity hospitals were reserved for exceptional cases. Similarly, dying patients were not taken to hospital. Most breathed their last breath in their own bed, surrounded by family.
Hospitals were seen as a last resort. People feared dying there and preferred home care. But not everyone had the means to pay for house calls.
The Toronto General Hospital - a handsome example of 19th-century hospital architecture - was the city's principal care facility.
Originally located at the corner of Simcoe and King, the hospital was enlarged in 1856 to border Gerrard and Sumach streets. In 1913, it relocated to College Street.
Toronto's General Hospital was founded in 1829 under the name York General Hospital.
Run by lay administrators, the hospital treated primarily poor patients.