The Sundre Women presented a Brief to the County Council April 19, 1967.
Didsbury, Alberta, Canada
Crusade for Hospital Led by Sundre Women
It has been many years since the women of Sundre decided to launch a crusade in support of a hospital for that community.
Recorded notes regarding the need for a Sundre Hospital go back as far as 1953.
In the years between 1953 and 1968, there were many struggles and hopes were dashed time after time.
In 1963, a brief was presented to the minister of health, Dr. Donovan Ross, outlining the health needs of the community. No response was ever received.
That same year, a group of women, concerned and disheartened by the way things were going, decided to approach Bob Clarke, then the MLA for the area, who was headed to Sundre for his annual pre-legislative visit. They phoned a few friends, inviting them to attend the meeting at the Sundre Hotel and expected, perhaps, a delegation of 10.
More than 100 women showed up at that meeting in Clarke's hotel room. The sheer numbers made discussions impossible and the meeting was transferred to the United Church so all could be accommodated.
The women of Sundre and area requested Clarke set up a meeting with Dr. Ross for them.
This banner was carried by the West Country Hospital Crusaders in a parade in 1967.
Sundre, Alberta, Canada
In March, 1964, 600 area residents packed into the high school auditorium. At this time the population of Sundre was 500.
Dr. Ross listened to their needs and told them a hospital might become a reality "one day", but first the community would have to attract another doctor to the area.
Dr. Miller was the only physician in town at that time. Several others had come - and then left - dissatisfied with the lack of a hospital.
In September, 1965, Dr. Alan White, his wife Dorothy, and their four children arrived in Sundre from England.
The following year, the Department of Health established the Sundre General Hospital District #51 by ministerial order. Dr. Ross hoped that construction of a hospital could get under way early in 1967. The community was excited and relieved with the news, but their struggle was not over.
The County of Mountain View made it clear that they opposed the construction of a hospital in Sundre. Shock and disappointment stunned the community but they were not to give in easily.
The women of the Chamber of Commerce Hospital Committee, as the group became known as, with the help of people in the community, gathered to meet with representatives from the county. The participants, 700 strong, turned out in a February blizzard to make their needs known.
At their next meeting, county councilors once more voted no to the hospital.
A representation from the hospital committee net with county councilors in Didsbury and asked them to reconsider. The answer was still no.
A few of Sundre's most dedicated women: an early photo of the Women's Auxiliary
Sundre, Alberta, Canada
One might think, by this time, that the community would have accepted the fact that the hospital was not to be and would have returned to their everyday lives. This was not the case.
On April 20, 1967, 235 Sundre area women marched on county offices in Didsbury, brief in hand, for one more effort to convince the county of the need for a hospital in Sundre.
They may not have been very optimistic following the meeting, given the history of the efforts to that point, but they were told the county would respond to their request by the following Wednesday.
The anxious wait was shorter than expected. On April 23, the women were informed that the county had finally agreed to the establishment of Hospital District #51 and approved the building of a hospital in Sundre.
On Aug. 16, 1968, Sundre saw the official opening of its 34-bed hospital. It was indeed a day for great celebration, not only for the hospital but also in honor of the women of Sundre and their friends and neighbours for the tremendous extremes they went through in their fight.
There have been many changes and renovations to the Sundre Hospital over the years and it has consistently received high honors for being one of the most outstanding rural hospitals in the province.
It houses a fully equipped emergency care area with highly specialized staff, a physiotherapy wing, maternity and labor rooms, 20 short-term care rooms (recently reduced from 30 due to government cutbacks), 5 recently opened long-term care rooms, and a heli-pad to accommodate STARS air ambulance services. A total of 6 doctors work from the hospital, complimented by a highly trained nursing staff.
You could say that the women of the Sundre area built this hospital. Strong women who did not flinch in the face of discouragement and apparent hopelessness. Many of these same women still live around Sundre and they have passed their determination down to another generation.
Presently, the Sundre hospital appears under threat of either closure or significant reduction in services.
One thing is for certain - the services of this hospital will not be reduced or lost without protest.