New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Saint John General Pubic Hospital, Part 1/2

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This is the first of two excerpts from the History of the General Public Hospital in the City of Saint John, New Brunswick, by William Bayard, published in 1896. It describes fund raising which began in 1860, and the history of the hospital itself from 1865 to 1894. The establishment of a nursing school and the provision of community nursing services are also chronicled.

The general public hospital was funded by the sale of bonds, and by charitable donations, and by new city taxes. Hospital beds were reserved for emergencies and for victims of accidents, but the hospital had significant public funding and was intended for the support of the ‘mechanic and the labourer’ who could neither afford to pay for his own nursing care, nor to travel to the United States for treatment. It was not intended for people of greater means. Prior to this time, the ‘mechanic and the labourer’ could only rely upon the charity of the Poor House in the event of illness, and many people avoided treatment altogether in order to keep clear of that place. There was resistance to new taxes and resistance to locating the hospital anywhere near where it might be a source of contagious disease. St J Hospital

The Saint John General Public Hospital, c 1880

New Brunswick Museum

Following is Bayard’s record of events:


The Saint John General Public Hospital, Part 1 of 2

Prior to the year 1865 the City and County of Saint John, with a population of upwards of 30,000, possessed no hospital accommodation for the mechanic and the labourer suffering from disease or accident. The Poor House was his only refuge; and with laudable pride, he declined to be classed as a pauper, preferring to be cared for at his humble home by friends; too often with the result that his little savings became exhausted, ultimately compelling him to accept that shelter which his pride induced him to ignore in the first instance. Indeed, there was no such hospital in the Province, and those living in the outlying districts—when requiring skilled medical and surgical assistance—became a burden upon their friends. This was not a proud position for the largest city in the Province, and one containing many persons of large wealth.

Dr. W. Bayard’s position, as physician in charge of the Poor House, and his connection with the Board of Health, taught him the imperative necessity for a hospital. He brought the subject before the community through the press, adducing various arguments in support of it; and having received promises by kind philanthropists for the sum of $10,000 for the purpose of erecting one, he felt sanguine that his scheme would be crowned by success. But when four of the most wealthy men in the city—one of them the largest landowner—refused to assist, he abandoned the idea of accomplishing his object by subscription, and concluded to carry out the project by imposing a tax upon the rate payers.

He felt justified in adopting this course because the burden would then fall proportionally upon oil, the rich man—who had not the heart to give—would be compelled to furnish his proportion, while the man in the position to receive the most benefit from such an institution would contribute his mite.

Accordingly, he employed the late George Blatch, Esq., to frame a bill asking power from the Legislature to sell bonds for the sum of $50,000 to be appropriated towards the erection and the furnishing of the building. For the support, the bill asked that a tax of one dollar a year be placed upon the poll of every ratable male inhabitant of the City and County of St. John. All other expenses to fall upon the real and personal estate of the rate-payer. In other words, the real and personal property holders were to furnish the building, pay the interest upon the money borrowed, their poll tax, and meet all extra demands; while those most likely to use it were asked to pay one dollar per year towards its support—a small sum compared with the expected benefit to them. The word positive may properly be substituted for the word expected, for no reasoning mind can ignore the fact that positive benefit must accrue to those having the privilege of entrée to such an institution.

The idea of increased taxation alarmed those who did not, or would not, recognize the necessity for a hospital. They did not take into consideration the fact that its establishment would necessarily lessen permanent pauperism, and thereby proportionally reduce the poor-rate.

The bill met with the most determined opposition from the press. Many editors wrote most bitterly against the measure, appealing to prejudices, and attributing unworthy motives to its supporters. The Common Council—as a body—was hostile to it, and supported its hostility by sending u committee of its members to Fredericton to prevent the passage of the bill.

All this did not discourage the many believers in the righteousness of their cause. The bill was taken to Fredericton, and argued before the individual members of the Legislature, and with the able assistance of the Hon. John Robertson, Sir Leonard Tilley, R.D. Wilmot, John H. Gray, Sir Albert Smith, and many others, it became law on the 9th day of April, 1860.

While the bill had passed, it did not grant all that was asked for. The Commissioners were given authority to sell bonds not to exceed $28,000. and the poll-tax was reduced from one dollar to twenty-five cents. In view of the fact that the wages of the mechanic and the laborer has doubled since that period, while the expense of living has not increased, and the fact that their children are educated at the public expense, it was a mistake that the original amount asked was not imposed upon them.

On the 3rd day of July, 1860, Hon. John Robertson, Dr. Wm. Bayard, Wm. H. Scovil, R.W. Crookshank, and John McLauchlin, Esqs., were appointed Commissioners to carry out the Act.

On the 15th day of August, 1860, the first meeting of the Board was held, at which Hon. John Robertson was elected President; Dr. Wm. Bayard, Vice-President: and John Ansley, Secretary.

In October of the same year tenders were asked for between two and three acres of ground in or near the city upon which to place the building.

In December of the same year various tenders were considered by the Board, and that of Joseph Fairweather was accepted, giving nearly three acres of land, with the absolute and unconditional occupation of the roadways leading to it from Waterloo Street and the City Road, for $9,650. Subsequently the land adjoining, and fronting on the City Road, was purchased from the estate of the late Senator John Robertson for $2,000., making in all the cost of the land $11,650.

In January, 1861, a seal was obtained for the Corporation, and in July of the same year the late Mathew Stead was empowered to make plans and specifications for the building, which were adopted by the Board in December.

The Commissioners finding that the $28,000. in hand would not complete the building, they asked power from the Legislature to sell bonds for $20,000 more. Liberty was granted to borrow $18,000, making in all $46,000, consequently they were compelled to curtail the plans and build only the main building and the eastern wing.

Subsequently the Province gave $8,000, and the estate of the late Richard Sands $2,000 towards the undertaking.

Tenders were asked for the construction of the portion of the building named, with the understanding that it was to be completed early in year 1863. The tender of James Quinton for $26,3xx.[?] being the lowest, the contract was awarded to him. The excavations, drainage, heating apparatus, and plumbing, were not included in Quinton’s contract. Those works added largely to the expenditure.

Upon the removal of Senator John Robertson to England in 1863, he tendered his resignation as President of the Board of Commissioners. His loss was much felt, as he was an active, energetic, and influential member.

Upon the resignation of Senator John Robertson in 1863, Dr. W. Bayard was appointed President of the Board, Wm. H.A. Keans Vice-President, and R.W. Crookshank Treasurer.

At the request of the Board, Dr. Bayard framed the by-laws of the institution, which were adopted in 1865.

In June, 1865, the Hospital was opened for the reception of patients, when the members of the medical staff were appointed, namely:

LeBaron Botsford, M.D., Glas.; Edwin Bayard, M.D., Edin.; T.W. Smith, M.D., Edin.; J. T. Steeves, M.D., New York; G.E.S. Keaton, M. D., New York; W. S. Harding, M.R.C.S., Eng.; James Sinclair, M.D., House Surgeon; Mrs. Mary Craig, Matron.

In November, 1873, the Trustees of the Savings Bank in the City of St. John—with the consent of the Dominion Government—handed to the Commissioners of the Hospital, for the support of that institution, the sum of $44,269.69, with the proviso that $42,000 of that sum “shall be invested in good and sufficient public securities, bearing not less than six per cent, per annum, which interest shall he appropriated by them towards the support and maintenance of the Hospital.” This was done, and the proceeds are in the Hospital box in the vault of the Bank of Nova Scotia, the President holding one key and the Treasurer the other.

In the year 1872 an Act was passed by the Legislature authorizing the Commissioners of the Hospital to expend $6,000 in building a Hospital for Infectious Diseases upon the Hospital ground.

The Board of Health having obtained the use of the old Military Hospital on the Barrack Ground for that purpose, the Act was not enforced until the year 1885, when the Common Council required the building to be removed from the locality upon which it stood.

The Commissioners complying with the request, concluded to erect one as directed by the law. Two months after the work had been commenced, and when about $2,000 had been expended upon it, a cabal was inaugurated by Mayor Macgregor Grant, who, appealing to prejudices, induced the various council boards to pass resolutions protesting against the undertaking. The Commissioners were hounded to the bitter end by a memorial to the Legislature, having the Civic Seals attached to it. This misleading document was replete with false reasoning. Its author did not dare to place a copy of it in the hands of the Commissioners before it was sent forward. Consequently the members of the Legislature were left in ignorance of the facts, and passed an Act placing the responsibility of the location of the Hospital upon the shoulders of the Commissioners, thereby subjecting them to prosecution by any person holding land adjoining that selected as a site for it. The Legislature having previously declared that the “Hospital for Contagious Disease shall be placed on the ground of the General Public Hospital,” no action can be taken against its location. Happily for the tax-payer, the Legislative Council did not ratify the Act, thereby saving to the community the $2,000 already spent, $3,000 or $4,000 for land in some other locality, with the never-ending risk of prosecution.

And now we have a Hospital for Contagious Diseases on the Hospital ground, always ready for the reception of suitable cases, in almost daily use, the cost of which was $6,000, and contrary to the declared opinion of our opponents, the surrounding neighbourhood has not in any way been contaminated or prejudiced by it.

A Nursing School was established in the year 1888, Dr. Bayard giving the opening address, and Commissioners Walker and Hetherington, together with the members of the medical staff, the lectures to the students upon the various subjects connected with their studies.

The Commissioners feeling the disadvantage of requiring nurses to sleep and eat in the atmosphere of the sick, and having no available room in the institution to provide them with good atmospheric surroundings, and not having the means at their disposal to furnish such accommodation, they determined to appeal to philanthropists in aid of their object; also to assist them in carrying out a scheme for “District Nursing” in the city, a desideratum much needed.

Knowing the ability and the untiring zeal of the wife of our Lieutenant Governor when engaged in a philanthropic object, and believing that if they could enlist her in their cause its success would be assured, consequently they approached Lady Tilley, and nobly she responded.

She, with the able assistance of very many ladies in this city, in the provincial towns, and many abroad, gave a building that will be a lasting monument of their good work, and illustrating their kind sympathy for a class who have embraced a calling with few attractions and many hardships, and when performing their various duties in a sick room faithfully and kindly, may be truly classed as “ministering angels,” and who deserve all the fostering care that can be afforded to them.

Appreciating the value of this gift, the Commissioners read the following address to her:

To Lady Tilley.

Madam—The Commissioners of the General Public Hospital, in addition to the verbal thanks already extended to you by our President, desire to express to you more formally our appreciation of the great value to the Hospital, and to the community at large, of the Nurses’ Home, recently presented to us by you. We would express to you our admiration of the zeal and untiring energy displayed by you, in bringing this charitable undertaking to such a successful completion, and we would, through you, thank all those who, under your leadership, have given so largely of both time and means to this noble enterprise. We sincerely pray that your ladyship’s fondest anticipations may be more than fulfilled in the value of this delightful home to the hard-worked Hospital nurses, and that from this cheerful meeting place, there will go forth in years to come, a devoted band of District Nurses, whose ministrations will prove a blessing to the place, and continue a lasting memorial to your efforts in behalf of the sick poor. May you live long, and may your life be cheered by the refection of your good works.

Signed by, W. Bayard, M.W. Maher, G.H. Clark, A.C. Smith, R.W. Crookshank, Thomas Walker, G.A. Hetherington, and W.C.R. Allan.

In all communities there are sick persons, who, for various reasons, cannot or will not obtain admission into hospitals, and who are too poor to employ skilled nurses. It is for such persons that District Nurses are required. Dr. Bayard, in his address to the nurses at the opening of the school in 1888, said: “They visit the houses of the indigent, or those who cannot afford to pay for a nurse, wherever sickness exists, and attend to the various wants of the patient. I sincerely hope that from this Hospital, we may be able to afford a staff of nurses for that purpose. Only those who are daily brought in contact with the misery, accruing from the want of such nursing, can appreciate the necessity for it. Imagine a small child with hip disease and abscess, where ignorant handling would produce exquisite agony. The skilled nurse alone, knows how to move the small sufferer so as not to jar the diseased limb. Another patient, bedridden and suffering from disease, requiring constant poulticing; the wife a helpless, nervous woman, with her room in confusion. In a few minutes the trained nurse has removed the crumbs from under him, replaced the cold, sloppy poultice with a warm firm one, given him a warm cup of gruel, and made him comfortable. Or the sick young mother, in a dark and impure room, with a crying child at her side, too often drugged with ‘sleepy stuff’ to enable the mother to obtain the rest which nature demands. Here the nurse can teach the mother that infants thrive on light and air, not upon ‘sleepy stuff’. Each nurse could visit from ten to twelve such cases in a day, and return to the Hospital at night.

“The road to the heart is oftener through the eye than the ear. I am quite sure if we could induce some of our kind friends, who are taking such an interest in this institution, to visit such cases as I have described, and see the misery that could be relieved by such nursing, there would be no lack of lands for the support of it.”

There is accommodation in the Nurses’ Home for six “district nurses,” but the Commissioners have not authority to draw upon the funds of the Hospital to pay them. Consequently an appeal has been made to the clergymen of the different denominations in the City, to establish a Hospital Sunday for that worthy object. The Commissioners propose to feed them in the Hospital, and they ask kind philanthropists to furnish money to pay them.

Dr. Thomas Walker is Treasurer of the Nurses’ Fund, and will receive donations. The clergy of the Church of England in St. John have responded, giving one nurse, who has been on duty since December, 1894—none of the others—but it is earnestly hoped that they may soon do so.

The proposition is to divide the city into six districts, and detail a nurse for each district, whose duty shall be to seek out and aid those requiring her assistance; and when her district work will admit of it, she may obey the calls of those able to pay for the services of a trained nurse.

Since the establishment of the Hospital up to the year 1883, the medical staff attended the sick gratuitously. At that time the work became so onerous, coupled with the difficulty of inducing experienced men to accept the situation, the Commissioners felt justified in paying each member when employed $2 per day for one or more visits. The pay is nothing commensurate with the work, but it is as much as the funds of the institution can at present afford.

Six physicians and surgeons, two oculists, two or more consultants, a dentist, and a house surgeon comprise the medical staff. Their duties have not been divided into medical and surgical, but it is hoped that in the near future this will be accomplished. They are educated men, who take large interest in their work, and perform their various duties faithfully, scientifically and effectually, as is amply proved by their record of all the modern surgical operations. They are appointed annually, and it may be remarked that no capital operation is allowed to be performed—except under special emergency—without notification and consultation with the staff.

In the year 1889 it was found that the accommodation for the sick was not sufficient for the demand upon it, consequently the Commissioners asked the Legislature to grant permission to sell bonds for the amount of $14,000 to complete and furnish the building by adding the western wing. This was done, and now we have a hospital with all modern conveniences, capable of receiving one hundred and ten patients, and affording each patient 1,800 cubic feet of air space. Also a “Hospital for Contagious Diseases,” capable of receiving twenty-five patients, with a like air space. Therefore, we may claim that the City of Saint John has ample hospital accommodation for its present requirements, and at a smaller cost than that of any other town with the same population.

The yearly expenditure for the Hospital in Halifax, with few more patients,—sailors included—is between $38,000 and $39,000, and the one in Portland, Maine, with nearly the same number of patients, is about $34,000, while the yearly expenditure upon this institution is under $20,000.

When deducting the provincial grant—the Savings Bank Bequest Fund—and the money received from pay patients,—sailors included—the rate-payer is not burdened to the extent of more than $12,000 yearly for this good work, and he may credit the institution with a reduction in his poor rate. But he pays more than his share. For the provincial grant—as will be seen in referring to the yearly reports—does not pay more than half the outlay for the patients from the different counties in the Province and the wayfarers, in or passing through the city.

The Commissioners have repeatedly brought this fact under the notice of the Government, contending that the grant from the Province should be largely increased. They were met by the contention that the “Savings Bank Bequest Fund” was a gift from the Province. “This is fallacious,” for, after much personal persuasion, and through the able assistance of Judge Weldon and Canon Scovil, the money was obtained for the Hospital, as appears by the following correspondence:

Saint John, September 1st, 1873

To the Chairman of Commissioners of the Public Hospital.

Sir,—I am directed to enclose to you a copy of the resolution passed by the Trustees of the St. John Savings Bank, and to request the action of your Board in reference thereto at your earliest convenience.

I am sir, yours respectfully, John Boyd.

Moved by Rev. Canon Scovil, and seconded by Mr. Justice Weldon:

Whereas, By the 16th Section of an Act, Chap. 6 of 34 Victoria, passed by the Dominion Parliament, April 14, 1871, the St. John Savings Bank, with its property, assets and liabilities, were transferred to the Dominion of Canada, subject to a proper allowance for any surplus of such property in the settlement of account between the Dominion and the Bank;

And whereas, On the adjustment of said account, the sum of forty-two thousand and seventy-nine dollars has been placed in the Bank of New Brunswick to the credit of the Trustees of the St. John Savings Bank, with the accumulated interest now amounting to the sum of forty-four thousand one hundred and eighty-two dollars and ninety-five cents ($44,182.95), to be disposed of as the said Trustees, with the approbation of the Dominion Government, may think fit;

Therefore resolved, That the above sum of $44,182.95, to 16th of October, 1873, with any further interest till paid, be given, by and with the consent of the Government, to the Commissioners of the General Hospital in the City of St. John, to be by them invested in good and sufficient public securities hearing not less than six per cent, per annum, which interest alone shall be appropriated by them towards the support and maintenance of said Hospital, to enable the Commissioners to carry on their work more efficiently;

Provided nevertheless, That the said Commissioners do first pay out of the said money, the sum of six hundred dollars per annum, in four equal quarterly payments, to the widow of Daniel Jordan, Esq., late cashier of the St. John Savings Bank, during the term of her natural life, the same to be paid to her from the time of Mr. Jordan’s death.

Consequently forty-two thousand dollars of the above named sum was invested in public securities. It is therefore idle to claim that the money was a gift from this Province.

If the Provincial grant is not increased, the Commissioners will be driven to close the doors of the Hospital against the sick from the out counties. For it is obviously unfair that the people of this city and county should be burdened with the pauper sick of the Province.

The Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a provincial institution—owned, managed and supported by the Provincial Government—yet it receives not double the number of patients from the out counties that this one does, the figures being for the Victoria 475; for this one 319. The foregoing should afford food for the consideration of our legislators. The Commissioners have done all in their power—the matter must now rest with the citizens.

In consequence of complaints against the management of the Marine Hospital in this city, the Minister of Marine requested the Commissioners to receive the sick sailors arriving in this port into the Hospital, the Dominion Government to pay ninety cents per day for each man, and all burial expenses. This was assented to in February, 1893, giving to the Hospital in future about two hundred additional patients yearly, for which the institution will receive between $3,000 and $4,000 per annum.

An “ambulance,” for the purpose of conveying persons seriously injured, seriously ill, or laboring under contagious diseases, to the institution, is much required. The sufferers are compelled to get there as best they can, and those infected with contagious diseases are too often taken to the Infectious Hospital in coaches, which coaches are used immediately after, without disinfection of any kind.

In May, 1894, Dr. Bayard brought this subject to the notice of the Mayor in the following letter:

George Robertson, Esq.,

Mayor of the City of Saint John.

My Dear Sir—Allow me to bring to your notice, and to the body over which you preside, the fact that an ambulance is sadly required in this city. There is no mode by which an individual having received such an injury as to make it imperative that he should be conveyed in a horizontal posture, or one so ill as to demand the same care, can be conveyed to his home, or to the Hospital. Such a want should not exist in a town the size of St. John.

As an illustration, I may say to you that a short time since a gentleman fell down a stairway, and received such an injury that to attempt to place him in a coach would have probably produced instant death. He was obliged to lie where he fell for an hour and a half before he could be moved to the Hospital, and then, at the risk of his life, on a rough express wagon.

I have given Messrs. Price & Shaw plans of the most approved kind at present in use in London. Enclosed is their estimate for the cost—$385. It will be so constructed that it can carry contagious diseases, and can be thoroughly purified in half an hour, and there will be no risk of contagion to the driver.

It will not require to be often used, and could be kept in the city stable, and a horse and driver furnished from there at little cost; whereas, if the Commissioners of the Hospital furnished one, it would cost the city little short of $1,000 a year, inasmuch as a horse and man must always be on hand with little to do.

I have the honor to be Yours very truly,

W. Bayard.

Dr. Bayard having received no answer to the above note, he cannot say what action has or will be taken upon it.


Next week’s blog will feature Bayard’s record of law-suits and controversies surrounding the hospital.


Written by johnwood1946

February 5, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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