Major changes lie ahead for St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox when a new hospital opens in Courtenay.
For the next seven months, though, staff, volunteers and perhaps the entire community will reflect on 100 years of the Comox Valley’s medical hub practising its motto of care with compassion.
As about three dozen participants heard in a recent brainstorming session, four nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto responded to an appeal from the Comox Logging Company via the Bishop of Victoria.
After an arduous journey, Sisters MaJella, Claudia, Praxedes and St. Edmund arrived in Comox in the summer of 1913.
An eight-room farmhouse soon became the first convent hospital in the region. Expanding the building grew its patient capacity, which was needed to treat soldiers from the 102 Battalion of the Royal Canadian Army who trained in the Comox Valley for the First World War.
The Spanish flu pandemic of 1919 tested the hospital and its people to their limits.
The building that still overlooks Comox Harbour was built in 1937, although what we know today as St. Joe’s opened in 1968.
It was touching at the brainstorming session to hear from longtime St. Joe’s staff and volunteers about the outpouring of support from the community through the decades.
The Filberg family, CFB Comox, Legion, service clubs and firefighters are just a handful. Other tales include the Cocoa Man in the 1940s who voluntarily served cocoa and an avid fisherman who supplied the hospital’s Catholics with their Friday meals.
People would often bring food to hospital, sometimes as a donation, sometimes to cover a bill they could not pay.
Besides being the birthplace of many people, the hospital has also been an integral part of the community, fostering the creation of the hospice society and the nursing centre to name two health-related spinoffs.
St. Joe’s is an important part of the Comox Valley’s past and present. The celebration of its centennial begins early in 2013.