Preparations are well underway in Ste. Rose du Lac. On October 5, the community will celebrate its hospital, which was founded by the Grey Nuns 80 years ago. The festivities will include a special tribute Mass, a historical video, a commemorative plaque and an exhibition of period hospital artifacts.
The year 2019 marks an important anniversary for Ste. Rose du Lac and surrounding area: for 80 years, residents have had access to medical treatment in their own community and their own hospital.
The institution’s history actually began two years earlier, in 1937, when Father Anatole Théoret, with the support of Bishop Sinott, convinced the Provincial Superior of the Grey Nuns, Sr. Émilienne, to found a new hospital in Ste. Rose du Lac.
Construction took place from September 1938 to February 1939, with the official opening on February 7, 1939. In the meantime, seven Grey Nuns had been sent to settle in the Ste. Rose area.
Michelle Quennelle, Executive Director of Ste. Rose General Hospital, the Winnipegosis & District Health Centre, the Dr. Gendreau Personal Care Home, and the Prévost Foundation, recalls the need that the hospital was addressing in the region: “In less than a year, the hospital saw more than 900 patients!”
In addition to caring for the sick at the hospital, the Grey Nuns also trained others in healthcare as early as 1944. The hospital’s nursing school was the first in Manitoba to graduate licensed practical nurses.
“In the first year, 10 young women completed the program.” Until the school amalgamated with St. Boniface General in 1949, some 40 licensed practical nurses graduated in Ste. Rose.
Very quickly, the hospital, which had 40 beds and 12 bassinettes, was unable to meet the demand. The only doctor in the region, Dr. René-Lionel Gendreau, was very well known. “He even brought an X-ray machine to Ste. Rose. It was probably the first one in rural Manitoba.”
In 1949, the Grey Nuns moved in order to free up 13 beds. But in the 1950s, the hospital was no longer in compliance with the new safety regulations. Construction of a new 68-bed hospital began in 1956.
“All patients from the first hospital were transferred to the second one in July 1957. The former hospital was converted into a residence for support staff and administrative offices.”
The year 1959 marked the establishment of the hospital’s first advisory council. Quennelle explains its significance. “For the first time, lay people were invited to get involved in the hospital’s administration. William Mason was its first president in 1959.”
Another important moment in the hospital’s history was Dr. Gendreau’s retirement in 1968. After him, recruiting doctors became a challenge and the region saw many doctors come and go until the 1980s. Those conditions led to the only strike by hospital staff, from June 19 to July 13, 1979.
However, this decade of instability did not prevent the hospital from receiving its first accreditation from the Province in January 1975.
Today, even though the hospital has only 25 beds and has not been equipped for surgery since 1989, it remains an asset to the region. That is why the community will gather on October 5 to celebrate the institution’s 80th anniversary.
Quennelle: “There will be a Mass in the morning, then a whole slate of activities for everyone around the hospital, including an exhibition of historical hospital equipment, as well as an exhibition on the Grey Nuns, our founders, in partnership with the Saint-Boniface Museum.”
“There will also be speeches, the unveiling of a plaque, the screening of a video that retraces the hospital’s history, and of course food. It will be a great celebration!”