Last Resort: Hospital Care in Canada
Montreal General Hospital, Dorchester Street, QC, about 1890
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1890, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
15 x 17 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Architecture (8646) , Cityscape (3948) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
Keys to History
By the 1870s, all major Canadian cities had both Protestant and Catholic general care hospitals, whose chief function was to treat the needy sick. Stemming from the British tradition, the General hospitals were under lay administration, whereas the French-inspired Hôtel-Dieu hospitals were run by religious orders.
The nurses, matrons and ward maids were poorly paid but often fed and housed. In the French-language hospitals, nursing sisters worked without pay.
Doctors treated the poor for free but collected fees from wealthy patients. Hospital practice also added to their prestige.
To reduce food costs, hospitals sought cut rates from generous butchers, bakers, produce growers and dairy farmers. Some further economized by growing produce and keeping a few cows.
The Montreal General Hospital was a lay institution offering medical care for the poor. Founded by physicians in 1819, it soon expanded its bed capacity with new buildings and developed close ties with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.
The original Montreal General Hospital building held only 24 beds and was located at the corner of Craig and St. Lawrence. Three years after opening, it moved to more spacious 72-bed quarters on Dorchester Street.
The Montreal General Hospital opened its doors on May 1, 1819. It shares much of its history with McGill University's Faculty of Medicine, since the two institutions have long had close ties.
Getting the Montreal General Hospital off the ground caused quite an uproar. Some politicians wanted to expand the Hôtel-Dieu instead of building a new facility. In the press, sharp controversy broke out between one Mr. O'Sullivan and Dr. William Caldwell, who was directly involved in the project. This led to a pistol duel in which both were wounded.