The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart;
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
By Iris Brunning
My name is Iris Brunning, I live at 199 West 34th Street, Hamilton and my husband and I have been home owners in the immediate vicinity of Chedoke for more than forty nine years, for thirty of those years I worked at Chedoke Hospital. I will attempt to condense Chedoke’s unique heritage which dates back almost 100 years, into as short a time as possible.
The original ninety eight acres of land was donated to Chedoke in 1906 by the Long and Bisby families who were Hamilton wool merchants. The dire need for caring for people with tuberculosis was brought to their attention by a Mrs. Lyle, a Presbyterian minister’s wife, who was well known in the area for her charitable work. The first few patients were housed in tents right on the escarpment of the mountain brow, they stayed there during that summer and were indeed able to return to work that winter. In due time additional land was donated amounting to three hundred and seventy acres.
During 1906 and 1907, citizens worked tirelessly to raise funds needed to build a sanatorium for the ever increasing numbers of patients needing medical attention. Individual citizen, churches and organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, and the I.O.D.E. etc. raised the funds to convert the/ farm house and wood shed into a house and kitchen facility for the doctor, patients and staff.
Two wooden open air buildings were built to house patients. Some of the food for patients and staff came from the cows, chickens and of course the orchards provided fruit in season. At this time the community raised the funds to provide all the provisions needed for patients and staff. In 1906 the Hamilton Health Association was chartered. During 1909 Dr. Holbrook had donated 10% of his already meager salary for provisions. During 1914-1918, rapid expansion was needed for returning soldiers from WWI who had contacted T.B. in the trenches in Europe. The spirit of generosity continued with prominent families donating the money to build individual buildings which bear their names, hence the Wilcox, Southam, Bruce, Grafton, Evel, Moreland and of course the Long and Bisby buildings.
From 1917 to 1945 Dr. Howard Holbrook, who was Medical Superintendent at that time, expanded the catchment area and set up clinics with 700 beds. The San as it was then called, was the largest in North America with the first open air school for children in Canada.
As time progressed T.B. dwindled, however the incidence of T.B in the Inuit population increased. During 1960, Dr. Ewart received a call from the Ministry asking if Chedoke could take ‘a few’ Innuit patients, in all 1,271 Inuit were treated. Some Inuit babies were even born here, christenings were arranged in their own language and even a christening robe provided. Dr. Ewart believed that it was important that they maintain their culture, faith, language and skills. Tons of soapstone was imported to the San in order that they could use it for occupational therapy. Adult patients left Chedoke with the gift of a collection of beautiful soapstone carvings for the enjoyment of patients, staff and visitors as a token of their appreciation for the excellent care they had received. The Ladies AuxilIary funded the cost of an excellent display cabinet designed to house them.
As T.B. (then called the White Plague) was slowly eradicated the sanatorium was no longer needed, the Wilcox Building became Chedoke General and Children’s’ Hospital in 1959. During the next decade Chedoke became the site of the School of Medical Technology, the School of Radiology and in 1965 the School of Nursing was built on the property and housed 110 nursing students. This was closed in 1978. In keeping with the educational role of Chedoke, Dr. Hugo Ewart offered the University the land for a Medical School, together with a 60% ratio of representation on its Board, however this was declined.
During this time Chedoke had become a full service hospital which included a Children’s’ ward, orthopedic surgery was a specialty and the Rehabilitation Centre became world class, the Prosthetics and Orthotics Department were privileged to serve patients such as Terry Fox and Rick Hansen. Many family physicians from outlying areas such as Dundas, Ancaster, Caledonia, Hagersville, Binbrook, Mount Hope and of course the Hamilton Mountain used Chedoke almost exclusively. Unfortunately, in 1976 Chedoke was threatened with closure by the province, the community and staff came together and over 85,000 signatures were obtained from surrounding areas and the closure was averted.
In 1979 Chedoke was amalgamated with McMaster Hospital, however the amalgamation did not include the existing funds and the land. In the mid-1980′s staff members pledged donations from their payroll to be used for Chedoke Redevelopment. Their generosity funded 2.4 million dollars, however we have never received any accountability for this. During 1992 the Operating Rooms were closed, together with the Emergency Department, later in 1999 the Urgent Care was also closed.
As you can see Chedoke has enjoyed a unique history of generosity from its inception not only from the gifts of land but also the tireless work from its community. Land has been donated to worthwhile causes such as Nursing Homes and the Interval House for Abused Women.
Dr. Holbrook’s philosophy was of applying the golden rule of ‘do unto others’ and of paving the way for the needs of the time and also of preparing for the future. We are endeavoring to try to do the same. We believe that it is impossible to predict accurately the future health care needs at this precarious time of crisis in health care, there is even a threat of T.B. once again appearing.
Until a thoroughly comprehensive plan for the future needs of Chedoke and indeed of health care in general has been studied; this precious property should be preserved for future use. The East lands are treed, quiet, secluded yet adjacent to a bus route and are particularly suited to a Hospice or similar building. We are all aware that funds may not be available at the moment, but times change, governments change, and the community often provide funds when needed for such important purposes. This responsibility rests not only to the neighbours in this area of the community, but to the entire region. (Many of the services offered at Chedoke are regional.)
Once the few remaining acres are gone no one can replace them, certainly not as a gift freely given. We feel that the sale of these remaining properties would be one of a short-sighted, quick fix method of dealing with today’s fiscal problems. Finally, I would like to mention, that had it not been for the generosity and mature legacy of Chedoke’s past heritage, we would not be in this position today, – of being here to debate the use and the sale of these extraordinary lands.