Last Resort: Hospital Care in Canada

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Women's ward, Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, QC, about 1894
Wm. Notman & Son
1930-1950, 20th century
Silver salts on film (safety) - Gelatin silver process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

Hospitals usually accepted people of all circumstances and all nationalities. But not everyone shared the same status. Poor patients, who were most numerous, received free care and medicine.

Men and women were housed separately in large wards, each accommodating up to 50 patients. These were vast, high-ceilinged rooms with a row of iron beds aligned along either side of a centre aisle. Until the 1900s, the uncomfortable mattresses were often stuffed with kelp, straw or horsehair. The beds were sometimes separated by a nightstand and a chair.

There were also wealthy patients, who paid for their hospitalization but enjoyed preferential treatment. Housed in comfortable private rooms, they had their own doctor, were tended by a nurse and could receive visitors at any time. These cases were rare, however.

  • What

    This photo shows the women's ward of the recently opened Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. At the time, it was one of Canada's most modern hospitals.

  • Where

    The Royal Victoria Hospital, named in honour of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, was built on Pine Avenue West, on the land it still occupies.

  • When

    The Royal Victoria Hospital was founded in 1887 and admitted its first patients on January 1, 1894.

  • Who

    In the 19th century, many hospitals were built with the support of wealthy philanthropists. The Royal Victoria Hospital received large monetary contributions from Sir Donald Smith and Sir George Stephen, and the land was donated by the City of Montreal.