Last Resort: Hospital Care in Canada
General hospital, Winnipeg, MB, 1884
William McFarlane Notman
1884, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Architecture (8646) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678)
Keys to History
Up until the last third of the 19th century, the delivery of care in hospitals (which were still fairly small) was based more on domestic skills than on medical knowledge. Neither the lay nurses nor the nursing sisters had academic training, and some of them were limited to monitoring patients and keeping them clean.
The English-language hospitals recruited middleclass women for their home economics skills and to supervise the nursing staff. Maids did the cleaning and laundry. The cooks, often men, prepared meals that consisted mainly of eggs, beef and potatoes. In season, the patients might enjoy produce from the hospital garden.
Labourers took care of general hospital maintenance, and specialized workers were hired for occasional major repairs.
This fine photo of the Winnipeg General Hospital shows the pavilion-style architecture that was popular at the time. A central corridor connected the different buildings, each of which usually had a particular function.
Medical progress and the population's growing needs soon saw large or medium-sized general hospitals in all major Canadian cities, including Winnipeg.
In the 19th century, general hospitals such as the one seen here were not very large but met the needs of the day.
Most hospitals of this sort were founded by doctors with the support of philanthropic organizations.