By Carson Ellis
The 1920’s would be a decade of change for Stettler’s healthcare system. The town was growing rapidly, and even though there were one or two private hospitals in operation in the community as well as a town hospital that was noted to have opened in 1912, and was described as ‘thoroughly equipped, and efficiently managed’, the medical needs of Stettler, and area were changing and required a facility that would meet those needs. It was, however, not a simple process and for the most part, was split between two groups.
The first group wanted Stettler to build a hospital operated by the Sister’s of St. Joseph, an organization that garnered a lot of attention and respect for their work both home and abroad during the First World War (and would also be well regarded in the Second World War.) The Board of Trade along with Father Battle, arranged to have a group of sisters here to begin work on forming a new hospital under their flag. Four Sisters arrived in Edmonton from Toronto in February of 1926. In March of that year, a general meeting was held to discuss the possibility of forming a new hospital.
This meeting did not go smoothly for the sisters or the Board of Trade. The second group of people had the idea of developing a Municipal hospital region and building a municipal hospital instead. When a final decision on how to proceed had yet to materialize by September of that year, Father Battle engaged the sisters in operating a small hospital out of Carder Hall, in hopes of keeping them in town until a decision was made.
By August of 1927, a Municipal Hospital district was formed. This would effectively end the Board of Trade’s efforts to establish a Sister’s hospital, and their temporary operation was effectively discontinued. The nuns would then take an offer from the community of Gallahad to open a hospital in their community, which would run for many years. As for the Municipal District, a credit of $40,000 was issued for a 20 year period to begin construction, and supply furnishings.
Construction was completed in 1929. Soon the Stettler Municipal Hospital would receive accolades from the Canadian Medical Association. It was commended on its exemplary operations and noted as a model facility for a hospital of its size. The hospital was such a well-run operation that it had paid off its initial debt in half the time allotted, which was good because by the end of the war, the Municipal District had grown and the larger district required a larger facility. So in 1949, a new 25-bed wing was added on at the cost of about $128,000.
The Stettler facility continued to be a well-run operation, which attracted medical staff from around the world. By the end of the 1950s, its top-rate service was augmented by the addition of a two-floored medical clinic purposely placed just a few short blocks away, and the A.E. Kennedey Auxillary Hopital, which would be the starting structure of our current hospital complex.