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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Florence McWhinnie
Date Posted: October 9/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1900's to 2000's

I graduated from Calgary General Hospital in 1926, and did a few months of private duty nursing in Calgary and B.C
I was recommended by C.J. Hasp to apply for a position in Swift Current Hospital, Saskatchewan. I applied for the position and was accept as a Supervisor of the Operating Room and Maternity War. I spent two and a half years there, and then returned to Calgary. I was advised by the Superintendent of Calgary General Hospital to apply to Wetaskiwin Hospital for the position of Matron. Ellen Johnson had been in charge but resigned to return to California where she had been working previously.

My application was accepted and I took over the position in August, 1929. At that time, the hospital was in the Wales Hotel, and could accommodate twelve patients plus the nursery. At the time the expenses were provided by the City of Wetaskiwin and the M.D (Municipal District) of Montgomery. The government gave us $0.70 per patient day. A few months later the M.D of Bigstone accepted their share. Besides the beds there was very little equipment and the provisions were almost negligible. The doctors had to provide their own instruments for surgery and the x-ray had been provided by Dr. Hoare (the dentist) and Dr. Shillabeer. The next three years the need of a Hospital was the discussion everywhere and brought up at every election.

It was not until 1932 that we had a opportunity to build and in November 1932, our cottage hospital was ready for occupancy. We were thrilled, nothing looked better and all our aspirations were sky high! Gerald Howatt was the first baby born in the new hospital and that was November 13th, 1932.

Our new hospital had two wards for seven patients each, and one three bed ward for maternity cases and four private rooms. We had a good operating room and one small work room. Because of our financial conditions, our nursing staff was small. Our night nurse worked a twelve hour shift all alone! And she did it for each month so she could have 3 days off duty at one time.

I forgot to say we had two rooms in the basement for isolation purposes, and happened to be the first patient to take advantage of the privacy! I had Scarlet Fever, so severe I was unable to return to work for two months, and during the first month, had to have a private duty nurse.

Because of an increase in staff, a Nurses Home was built. On completion, we had a grand opening and people from both municipalities and Wetaskiwin arrived to inspect our home. It was a great success. Nowadays, the nurses all have their own rooms to rent or are married and have their own homes and have eight hour days.

Like everything else, it was a time for change. Our cottage hospital had too few beds; our training had taught us that the patient always came first. Regardless of how many patients we had, we never refused an emergency. Beds in the corridor and extra beds pushed into wards. No railway ever shuffled more cars than we did beds. With so many it made the "care" more difficult to give.

In 1962, we were in the third hospital during my stay in Wetaskiwin. I stayed until 1963 and in July put in my resignation to take effect October 1st. Since that time my memories are all happy ones of my thirty-four years in Wetaskiwin. Our Hospital Conventions meant a lot to all those in charge and I attended almost all of them. Our contributions at the meetings meant a lot and each of us in charge tried to share what we had learned in our work.

Since my retirement, I was back to Wetaskiwin to attend the opening of the present hospital. It is a far cry from the little old place in the Wales Hotel and I congratulate all those who have done their part in its success. May God bless them all!

Taken from the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses Newsletter:
Miss Florence McWhinnie arrived in Wetaskiwin in 1929 to take charge of the hospital. From that day the young graduate of the Calgary General Hospital saw the changed from a makeshift set-up on the second floor of what is now the Wales Hotel to a new building in the early '30's and finally to the ultramodern ninety bed hospital opened last year. Miss McWhinnie's first decade in Wetaskiwin included the Depression years when it was common practice for patients to help pay their hospitals bills with donations of poultry and eggs. She reflects now on changing patterns in the finance management of today's administrative practices.

Miss McWhinnie was one of the leading forces behind Wetaskiwin's acquisition of its first proper hospital building and her persistent efforts saw subsequent progress in her hospital's service to the community. Throughout the years, she grew professionally and developed the skills necessary for competency as a matron. Her versatility was demonstrated in her capabilities, not only as a director of nursing service, but as operating room nurse, x-ray technician and emergency care.

Information compiled in 1997.


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Board Member - Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum
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Wetaskiwin, Alberta T9A 0S3


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