Comox hospital more than 'just bricks and mortar'

PREMIER CHRISTY CLARK joined St. Joseph's General Hospital's centennial celebrations when she helped unveil the commemorative mural in the hospital lobby. Other dignitaries and children of hospital staff also helped unveil the mural during the hospital's open house celebration.
— image credit: Renee Andor

St. Joseph's General Hospital reflected on the past and looked toward the future last week during its open house celebrating 100 years in the Comox Valley.

The hospital's main lobby was packed Friday as the hospital kicked off its centennial celebrations, which culminate in July.

Many dignitaries attended the event, including Premier Christy Clark, Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, the Comox Valley's three mayors and Vancouver Island Health Authority board chair Don Hubbard, among many others.

Hospital board chair Jim Bennett noted the hospital's 100th anniversary is a time for reflection and celebration.

"What began as a temporary four-bed hospital in a farmhouse in 1913 has grown over the decades in shape, size and capacity to the 241-bed facility with modern diagnostic treatment and services that you see here today," he said.

A commemorative mural with images from the past and present was unveiled in the hospital lobby, and a commemorative video by local videographer Zac Whyte was premiered.

Hospital president and CEO Jane Murphy thanked the Comox Valley community for entrusting its health care for 100 years, noting the hospital's history is more than "just bricks and mortar."

"The very essence of St. Joseph's is the dedication of the many sisters, physicians, staff and volunteers who have served the hospital over the past 100 years," she said, noting she is grateful to the people who have dedicated their lives to caring for others at St. Joseph's.

She also said she is proud of all the staff and physicians who will move over to the new Comox Valley hospital when it's complete in 2017, noting St. Joseph's is looking at what its new role will be in the Valley when that happens.

"With the support of His Excellency, Bishop Richard Gagnon, we are exploring a new role for St. Joseph's, one that focuses on meeting the needs of the community related to seniors and hospice care, as well as other related health care services," she added. "As part of this exploration, we'll be reaching out to the community for your input..."

Clark also spoke about the new hospital, stressing that her government will ensure the new hospital and St. Joseph's will not simply be buildings.

"Health care is not just a building, health care is not just an investment in capital, health care is principally an investment in people by people," she continued. "This hospital is great because of all the dedicated, hard-working professionals who care so deeply for the people of this community."

McRae spoke about his family's history with the hospital, noting his mother worked there as a registered nurse, family births, other medical care, including his daughter's emergency room visit for "crayon-up-the-nose-itis," and on a sadder note, family passings.

"From birth to decease, this hospital has always done so much for Comox Valley residents, North Island residents, and from the bottom of my family's heart, and in reflection of so many families for the last hundred years, I want to say thank you, thank you so very much," said McRae.

Dr. Debra Wiens spoke on behalf of medical staff, noting their pride in the facility, and announced a new partnership with the University of BC, which will see St. Joseph's become a training site for family physicians.

"So during this year, as we are celebrating our hundredth anniversary, we will also be embarking on a whole new beginning of medical education in the Comox Valley, and our first six students will begin their two-year training program in July 2013," she said.

Father Marek Paczka spoke on behalf of the Diocese of Victoria noting the 100 years of care the hospital has provided represents tens of thousands of people who have been cared for.

"May the spirit of gratitude for the past and present be part of our celebration, and give us hope as we look into the future," he said. "God bless you."

St. Joseph's will celebrate its hundredth anniversary with more events leading up to a mass celebration on hospital grounds in July. For more information on St. Joseph's events, visit

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